Hong Kong police arrested 159 people over the weekend and charged 16 of them with rioting, including two social workers who tried to mediate between police and protesters.
A total of 1,117 people have been arrested since the anti-extradition bill protests started, police figures showed.
At the daily press briefing on Monday, the police spokesperson confirmed that 132 men and 27 women aged between 13 and 58 were arrested between Friday and Sunday in various districts. Some have been charged with rioting, others with unlawful assembly, attacking and obstructing police and possessing offensive weapons.
On August 31, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets despite the fact that the Civil Human Rights Front canceled a planned march because of a police ban. Some later became involved in battles with police after blocking major roads and threw Molotov cocktails and damaged a number of MTR stations.
Police said 241 tear gas canisters, 92 rubber bullets, one bean bag bullet and 10 sponge rounds were fired in a bid to disperse the protesters.
Two live rounds were also fired by two police officers in Victoria Park. The police spokesperson said firing the live rounds was the correct decision as the officers feared for their lives after being attacked by protesters, who tried to snatch their guns and phones.
The protesters discovered the two police officers, who had disguised themselves by wearing the same black outfits as demonstrators. However, the two did not disclose their identities when reporters questioned them on the spot.
Rioting charge for social worker
Among the 16 people charged with rioting, two were social workers. They have been in the front line of the protests many times since June, playing the role of mediators.
One is Jackie Chen Hung-sau. She was arrested at the Southern Playground in Wan Chai for alleged unlawful assembly, but was later charged with rioting.
Chen was often seen carrying a loudspeaker in the front lines to mediate between police officers and protesters when the situation escalated. She calmed the police and provided assistance when the protesters needed it.
A group of social workers has been in the front lines taking a mediating role and helping young people who have been detained if they needed someone to accompany them to a police station.
Chen was released on bail on Monday after making an appearance at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court.
During her detention, Chen observed that the police neglected the rights of the detainees, though she told the media outside the court that the police officers showed respect for her rights.
Chen said she had seen that detainees, some with obvious wounds and injuries, were not being sent to hospital for treatment on time. The police also ignored their requests to call their lawyers.
Chen discovered that some detainees’ hands had been bound with cable ties for more than eight hours. Some female detainees were not allowed to close the door when they were using toilets, although Chen was allowed to.
At least six female detainees were asked to take off their tops or pants when undergoing body searches, but the police repeated the procedures each time they were taken to a different police station.
Chen questioned the senior officer on duty about why they needed to repeat the procedures since they had been thoroughly searched many times.
She also discovered there was a lack of understanding among police officers about the duties and responsibilities of a social worker. She reminded the police force that the presence of social workers at protest sites could help ease the tension and protect both the police and protesters.
The Hong Kong Social Worker General Union said they were shocked and furious that Chen was under arrest and charged with rioting. They said Chen had been doing her duties as a social worker, trying to prevent any tragedy happened by using her professional skills on both police officers and protesters, but in return, police arrested her.
Anyone charges with rioting faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.