Twenty-eight people were injured and 37 were arrested on Sunday when major brawls broke out inside a shopping mall in Sha Tin, the New Territories, as police tried to clear anti-extradition protesters from streets.
After an anti-extradition bill rally ended in Sha Tin, some protesters gathered around Yuen Wo Road Sports Center. Protesters agreed to leave the area and were forced to enter the New Town Plaza shopping mall, which was the only way to leave the vicinity as police had cordoned off the nearby passageways and adjacent shopping malls.
Riot police arrested a member of Demosisto – a pro-democracy organization founded by former student leader Joshua Wong and former lawmaker Nathan Law – for alleged unlawful assembly, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.
A video that surfaced on social media showed a police officer had subdued the Demosisto member on the ground, but then twisted his arm 180 degrees.
As the streets were cordoned off by the police, protesters went to the New Town Plaza, one of the biggest shopping malls in the New Territories, where there is access to Sha Tin MTR Station.
However they returned to the mall when they found riot police inside the MTR Station and feared they would be arrested.
The brawls broke out in the shopping mall when several teams of police, with helmets and batons, entered the mall to disperse the protesters.
At one point, a group of protesters and police scuffled with umbrellas, water bottles and other objects. Vastly outnumbered, video clips showed that a couple of police officers were pushed down and beaten on the ground.
Officers tried to use pepper spray and batons to disperse the crowd but failed. They then retreated and regrouped with riot police and re-entered the mall.
Demonstrators threw a variety of objects at police from the floors above as police attempted to clear the crowd in the atrium.
Officers also ran up through the different floors of the shopping mall to apprehend protesters.
A photo that surfaced on social media showed a police officer poking the eye of a protester as he was being subdued. The protester bit the officer’s finger to the bone.
The MTR Corporation announced shortly after 10pm that trains were not stopping at Sha Tin Station until further notice. Some protesters rushed onto stationary trains and were able to leave when services resumed.
The Hospital Authority said on Monday that two people were in a critical condition and four were serious, among 28 people who were admitted for treatment. Twenty-two remained in the hospital.
Police said 11 officers were injured, including one who lost part of a finger.
The force said it arrested 20 men and 17 women.
It was understood that none of the shops inside the mall was damaged during the scuffles.
The popular New Town Plaza is usually busy with families and other shoppers on Sunday nights. Videos and photos showed normal citizens and families running for safety as riot police dispersed the crowd.
On Monday, an unidentified man complained on a Commercial Radio phone-in program that the protesters had been arrested inside the mall. He said he and his 80-year-old mother were having dinner in the restaurant in the mall when they realised that there were numerous policemen in the mall. They wanted to take the MTR to go home but were turned back by police.
He said he had no choice but to arrange for his elderly mother to sit inside the ladies room for two hours while the crowd dispersed and police left.
Meanwhile, the management of the New Town Plaza issued a statement on its Facebook page saying they did not call the police for assistance on Sunday night. However, netizens showed a video clip of two security guards of the New Town Plaza leading a team of riot police into the mall.
The government has issued a statement strongly condemning the illegal acts of some protesters who deliberately blocked roads, violently assaulted police officers and caused a breach of the peace.
Police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung visited the injured police officers at 3am on Monday at Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po, the New Territories. He expressed “the strongest condemnation” against the protesters who “lost their minds” during clashes with officers in Sha Tin.
Lo said the force will spare no effort in its investigation and would follow up “to the very end”.
He also said the police officers worked hard under tremendous pressure, only to be criticized by people from different sectors in return.
When asked why officers had entered the New Town Plaza to round up protesters, Lo said it was the duty of police to make arrests if they knew people who had broken the law had gone into the shopping mall.