HONG KONG (AFP) – Amnesty International on Friday warned Hong Kong police against “excessive force” ahead of a planned rally by pro-democracy demonstrators, following scuffles as a major protest site was cleared earlier this week.
Police sprayed “pepper water” at crowds as they tore down tents and barricades in the busy commercial neighbourhood of Mongkok – home to one of three protest camps blocking major junctions in the semi-autonomous Chinese city – and made more than 140 arrests.
Amnesty said the two-day operation had seen “unjustifiable force against protesters, bystanders and journalists”.
“The heavy-handed approach by police violates the protesters’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and risks exacerbating an already tense situation,” said Mabel Au, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
Footage from local news channel Digital Broadcasting Corporation showed a police officer hitting an unarmed man on the back with a baton near the cleared protest zone on Wednesday night.
Police spokesman Hui Chun-tak said Friday that the force was “highly concerned about a police officer suspected in an incident of unnecessary use of force” during the operation.
The force has initiated “follow-up action” and the officer has stopped participating in “related operations”, Hui added.
Fresh clashes flared in Mongkok around midnight Friday as thousands of protesters faced off against police, who surged through crowds with batons. About a dozen were dragged away by police.