The chair of a local cycling group has criticised the police’s “excessive” enforcement of social distancing rules, after tens of thousands of dollars of fines were dished out to cyclists commemorating people who had been killed or injured on Hong Kong’s roads.
The organisers of the annual ‘Ride of Silence’, the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, said 16 cyclists lost their lives and more than 2,600 were injured in Hong Kong in 2020, and they were using Wednesday’s event to call on the SAR government to collect more data on how many people ride bikes in the city.
The alliance said they had discussed their plans with the police.
Martin Turner, who chairs the group, said they typically apply for a letter of no objection from the police, but – given coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings – a physical meeting couldn’t take place.
However, Turner said that the alliance had a prior meeting with a police community relations officer, who said that the event could go ahead provided there was no sound amplification equipment, banners telling people to attend on purpose, and that the participants would not gather in groups larger than four.
According to Turner, 15 cyclists turned up for the event, and there was a very heavy police presence with around 60 officers at Tsim Sha Tsui, and more officers stationed along the route.
“They were checking and taking details of everybody who came and then instantly checking back to their headquarters and referencing the ID numbers,” he said, adding that officers were very firm about infractions.
"Myself and three others were cycling up Nathan Road and before we got out of Tsim Sha Tsui, five or six police officers stopped us, pulled us over and claimed we were a group of five because we hadn’t seen that there was another cyclist that had approached near us and they claimed that we were a group,” Turner said.
“So we had 20 minutes of discussion about the proximity of this fifth cyclist to our group of four. It was quite oppressive."
Turner told RTHK's Vicky Wong that a warning reminding people to maintain social distance would have been appropriate, and that some in the group felt the police behaviour was "excessive and inappropriate.
Some were fined as much as HK$5,000, while others were given penalties for not having reflectors or bells on their bikes.
He said there was a “great deal of regret” that the pandemic was used as an excuse to break up the event.
Turner said he had no expectation of an apology, or for the police to waive their fines.
“I expect nothing of the kind, I expect the police to stand by their procedures, they were unresponsive when I put to them that they had misled us, the officer in charge kept parroting that they were following Cap 599, and that was all they were doing, and the fact there were 60 police running around, grabbing, and taking details of everybody there they claim was just doing their duty,” he said.