Police have arrested a total of 53 people over their alleged roles in unsanctioned marches in the New Territories and Hong Kong Island over the weekend, both of which culminated in police officers firing tear gas to disperse unruly demonstrators.

Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu from the Police Public Relations Branch told reporters at an early morning press conference today that the suspects arrested over yesterday’s protest in Sheung Wan and Sai Wan had been brought in on suspicion of unlawful assembly and possession of offensive weapons.

She said that police “strongly condemn the escalating violence” by some radical protesters, which included setting fires and throwing large road signs and heavy items from an elevated highway at officers on the ground.

Yesterday’s protest, which began at Chater Garden in the afternoon, soon saw protesters spreading out to various locations like Causeway Bay, Western Police Station, and various locations around Sheung Wan near Beijing’s liaison office.

Last night, riot police fired tear gas in predominantly residential areas like Sai Ying Pun, with passersby and even children getting caught in the crossfire.

Yu didn’t confirm how many tear gas rounds, rubber bullets, and so-called “sponge grenades” were used against protesters in last night’s clearance operation.

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In addition to the arrests, Ming Pao reported that 16 people were sent to hospital for treatment to injuries sustained during the clashes. According to information from the Hospital Authority, 11 men and five women — aged 17 to 50 — were sent to Queen Mary Hospital, and as of this morning, four had been discharged with the remaining 12 in stable condition.

Yesterday’s rally came one day after thousands of people gathered in Yuen Long, in the New Territories, for a protest that had similarly been banned by police.

A total of 14 people were arrested in connection with Saturday’s rally, including organizer Max Chung, who was taken away by police shortly after he took part in RTHK’s City Forum, a weekly panel discussion program that is held in Victoria Park every Sunday afternoon in front of a live audience.

Chung was arrested on suspicion of “inciting an unlawful assembly” after he stated he would still go to Yuen Long and march on his own, despite police banning the march from taking place, according to Ming Pao.

The newspaper reported that the other 13 people arrested — all men, aged 18 to 68 — were brought in on suspicion of illegal assembly, possession of offensive weapons, and assaulting a police officer.

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A protester lies on the ground amid a group of riot police during the dispersal of an unsanctioned rally in Yuen Long on Saturday. Photo by Samantha Mei Topp.
A protester lies on the ground amid a group of riot police during the dispersal of an unsanctioned rally in Yuen Long on Saturday. Photo by Samantha Mei Topp.

Saturday’s protest was called in response to a brutal attack at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, which saw masked men in white shirts attack protesters returning home from an extradition bill rally that day. Unsuspecting commuters were also got caught in the violent assault, and police took more than 30 minutes to respond to calls from the station, giving the men in white ample time to flee the scene.

After weeks of increasingly violent protests, China’s top policy body on Hong Kong affairs is set to hold an extremely rare press briefing on the crisis today. What began as a mass display of opposition to an extradition bill two months ago has morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that has thrown down the most significant challenge to Beijing’s authority since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

While China has issued increasingly shrill condemnations of the protests in the last two weeks, it has largely left the city’s pro-Beijing administration to deal with the situation. So Monday’s highly unusual press briefing in Beijing by the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office will be closely watched for any hint of more direct intervention.

In an editorial on Monday, the state-run China Daily newspaper signaled the growing concern in Beijing.

“What is happening in Hong Kong is no longer the airing of real or imagined grievances,” the editorial said.”It is of the same hue as the color revolutions that were instigated in the Middle East and North Africa – local anti-government elements colluding with external forces to topple governments utilizing modern communication technology to spread rumors, distrust and fear.”

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Additional reporting by AFP.





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