Thousands of people gathered in Edinburgh Place on Friday evening, as concern about protesters sent to San Uk Ling holding centre persisted even after Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the police announced the facility would no longer be used to house detained demonstrators. Rally organisers put the turnout at 50,000.
The facility in Sheung Shui, close to the border with the mainland, has been the target of a host of complaints – with numerous allegations that police have abused anti-government protesters who were sent there, or that many had been denied access to medical treatment or to their lawyers.
The police on Friday said they have not detained protesters there since early September, but it had nothing to do with what they described as groundless accusations.
Nonetheless, protesters took over every available vantage point within and around Edinburgh Place on Friday night to hear stories from protesters detained at the facility.
Some of the speakers spoke of alleged abuse at the hands of the police at San Uk Ling and elsewhere. A Chinese University student calling herself 'S' said a male officer had patted her on the breast at the Kwai Chung police station, and was made to use a toilet with no door as male officers were steps away.
Many people at the rally were skeptical that the police decision to stop using San Uk Ling will make any difference.
“The problem is not San Uk Ling itself, but the police”, said Katie, a university student.
“It’s hilarious, because [even if] you stop using the place, the location, it doesn’t mean you will stop the brutality. The main problem is the police hitting the arrested protesters – even unarmed citizens”, she said.
Claudia Yip from Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor agreed, saying the alleged abuses – including being denied medical care or access to a lawyer – are not exclusive to San Uk Ling.
“It’s a practice that’s been done elsewhere as well, so investigation and correction of such practices are necessary”, she said.
The mostly-black clad crowd also chanted anti-extradition slogans such as “Five demands, not one less” and “fight for freedom – Stand with Hong Kong.”
A giant yellow banner that reads “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our time” was also unfurled.