The police have denied accusations that they abused their powers on Tuesday night, when dozens of people had gathered in Prince Edward to mark seven months since the storming of the MTR station there.
Civil Rights Observer said the police had abused a new law barring public gatherings of more than four people, aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. The group said officers had claimed that people unconnected to one another were actually part of one group.
In a social media post, the rights group said the law cannot be used to strip people of their rights to hold peaceful demonstrations and to express themselves.
A Democratic Party member and lawmaker’s assistant, Chan Po-ming, says he was observing people place flowers outside the MTR station when police came over and told him he would be searched, if he didn't leave the area.
He says he was later told to line up with other people by a different group of officers, and then accused of breaking the new law on gatherings.
Barrister Anson Wong told RTHK that a key element of the gatherings law is not whether a group of people know each other, but whether they have a common purpose for getting together.
He said that people following police orders to line up to be searched should not constitute a "gathering", under the law.
In response, the police say they cautioned and searched 75 people, warning them that they might be in breach of the new law barring public gatherings of more than four people. Officers recorded their personal information and would not rule out prosecuting them later.
The police also cited a number of crimes committed on Tuesday night, such as protesters blocking roads and hurling petrol bombs at a carpark and the Mong Kok East MTR station.
In all, 54 people, aged between 12 and 70, were arrested. Among the offences they allegedly committed include illegal assembly, disorderly conduct and theft.
Last updated: 2020-04-01 HKT 22:23
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