Riot police stormed into the Cityplaza mall in Tai Koo on Sunday evening, subduing several people and pepper spraying others, after anti-government protesters sprayed graffiti at the entrances of two restaurants.
At around 6.30pm, riot police stormed in, rushing past families and shoppers, leaving a woman in tears.
At least two people were subdued – including a reporter for the online news outlet Stand News – who was still holding a camera when he was pressed to the ground.
Stand News later said in a statement that the video operator was handcuffed and taken away in a police van. It said it did not immediately know what happened or why he was arrested, but pointed out that he was wearing his press pass at the time.
A number of people were pepper-sprayed after appealing to police to let a young man go.
One witness told RTHK she thought the police were out of line.
“The pepper spraying was really bad, because people were just standing by and telling them to give a chance to the kid that they were trying to arrest. No one was even calling police names, no one was doing that. We don’t want to provoke them to do something really rash,” she said.
During the chaos, some masked officers pointed their shotguns up at people who were shouting abuse at them.
Many shops quickly pulled down their shutters. At a toy store, around a dozen anxious-looking parents stood behind a plastic barrier along with their children, apparently trying to wait until things calm down.
The police action sparked panic among some shoppers and angered others, who said things were peaceful and demanded to know why police were allowed in.
Later, at around 9pm, riot police pepper sprayed reporters, first-aid volunteers, and other people who were still inside the mall, after they rushed back inside the mall to subdue a man.
Multiple cameras that were all live-streaming what was happening were suddenly filled with numerous spots of the pepper-spray solution after officers liberally sprayed anyone and everyone who rushed forward to witness the arrest. First-aid volunteers then helped those who were hit wash out their eyes with saline solution. At least one officer was also seen to be getting his eyes washed by his colleagues.
Many people had stayed inside the mall even though it had announced that it would close at around 7.30pm. Some pointed lasers at police still gathered outside, while others chanted slogans.
Still others who were also unhappy with the police action remained outside the mall. Police warned them that they were taking part in an illegal assembly at ordered them to leave, to no avail.
Hundreds of people had been peacefully forming a human chain inside the mall earlier in the afternoon in response to online calls for people to gather across the city to protest acts of police brutality.
One woman who took part in the human chain after watching a movie at the mall was confounded at why the police even showed up.
“We were just standing there holding hands,” she said. “No reason, Not one reason. I didn’t see any violence anywhere. Nobody was doing anything wrong as far as I can see, and I walked through the whole mall and I saw nothing bad, so I don’t understand.”
Another woman agreed that the police overreacted.
“They shouldn’t be here because all we did is just sing. That’s it! Why threaten us? Why hold a gun? Why spray the people? It’s absolutely ridiculous!” she said.
Riot police also rushed into the Tai Po Mega Mall in the evening, subduing at least three people.
A Yoshinoya restaurant was vandalised earlier in the afternoon.
Some officers were seen pointing their shotguns at people who were standing on a podium.
Police said in a social media post that people had been throwing thing down at officers, before taking refuge inside the mall.
Last updated: 2019-11-03 HKT 21:33
Riot police storm Tai Koo mall, arrests made
2019-11-03 HKT 18:57
Riot police storm Tai Koo mall, arrests made
Some people hid behind a plastic barrier inside a toy store with their children as riot police were arresting people in the mall. Photo: RTHK
A restaurant operated by the Maxims chain that has been a primary target of protesters was vandalised. Photo: RTHK
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