Video footage of Hong Kong’s riot police attacking protesters and passengers inside the carriages of an MRT train on Saturday night have gone viral and many claimed the incidents led to revenge attacks on trains stations on Sunday.
Services at two Hong Kong MTR stations resumed on Monday after they were closed on Saturday night after police stormed into the subway and into carriages in a bid to arrest anti-extradition bill protesters.
A total of 63 people – 54 men and nine women aged between 13 and 35 – were arrested at Prince Edward and Mong Kok MTR stations on Saturday night on charges of criminal damage, illegal assembly, possessing offensive weapons and explosive substances.
A 13-year-old boy was arrested for allegedly carrying two petrol bombs, police said on Sunday.
The arrests came after tens of thousands of protesters took the streets of Hong Kong to join a banned march which turned to chaos late in the afternoon when protesters threw bricks and set fires. Police fired tear gas and jets of blue-colored water from water cannons mounted on trucks. Many protesters tried to leave at night.
At about 10pm, special tactical force officers, commonly known as “raptors,” were called in by the local railway operator as they had seen a clash between protesters and passengers in a train heading for Prince Edward Station. The train operator also said the protesters had caused damage inside Mong Kok Station.
Video footage on social media showed a middle-aged man wielding a hammer against protesters after he was accused of pushing reporters. Some protesters also threw water bottles and umbrellas.
The police were called and they rushed to the platform and ran into the carriages of a train heading to Central. Protesters, as well as passengers, were inside the carriages.
Police were seen beating a number of people and spraying them with pepper spray, while many passengers opened their umbrellas to protect themselves. A man was seen trying to protect his friends from the attack, begging police officers to stop.
One officer was also seen pointing his gun at passengers at close range.
However, the police left the carriages and did not make any arrests on the spot. A video showed at least three people suffering head injuries and a pool of blood was seen on the train floor from one of the injured men.
Other officers chased young people and those wearing black on the platform, subduing and arresting them.
Witnesses told local newspapers there were not only protesters, but many ordinary passengers including families, the elderly and people in wheel-chairs inside the train when the officers rushed in.
A person who administered first-aid and treated three injured people inside the train questioned how police could distinguish between protesters and ordinary commuters, Apple Daily reported.
Video footage of the police operation went viral on social media. Some said the footage reminded them of when white-clad gangsters attacked protesters and passengers with rattan canes and steel poles at Yuen Long MTR Station on July 21, leaving about 45 injured.
Police said they entered the station after receiving reports that protesters had assaulted members of the public and damaged property in the station. They said they entered the station to stop the violent acts and to arrest the offenders.
But some people went online and slammed the police for beating passengers indiscriminately and claimed the police rushed to a train on the opposite platform and not the train where the clashes had happened.
A police spokesperson rejected accusations that the officers had behaved like gangsters and assaulted passengers indiscriminately. The spokesperson claimed that through their professional experience, the officers were able to distinguish between protesters who had changed clothes and ordinary commuters.
A day after the chaotic clashes downtown, protesters carried out their plans to stop transport links to Hong Kong International Airport on Sunday afternoon.
Their plans appeared to be successful as they paralyzed the Lantau Link, which is the main road connecting the airport and downtown districts. The railway network was shut down as well after protesters vandalized part of the airport and Tung Chung stations. However, these actions also left the protesters stranded on Lantau Island.
Late on Sunday afternoon, when the protesters noticed that riot police were coming for them, hundreds scattered to look for a way back to the city and to avoid being arrested.
They retreated from the airport to Tung Chung on foot. Many even tried to make a 14-kilometer walk back to town via the Lantau Link. Others headed to Mui Wo or Discovery Bay to get ferries back to Central.
Riot police were ready at the piers in Central and stopped a number of people and searched them. Police were also deployed to patrol MTR stations across the city and to arrest people suspected of being involved in Sunday’s protests.
On Sunday night, when a few hundred protesters tried to walk out of the Tung Chung area, some Hong Kong people sympathetic to the protesters quickly mobilized volunteers to drive to Lantau Island and give the trapped protesters a ride over the Tsing Ma Bridge.
A row of vehicles parked at the shoulder of the Lantau Link Toll Plaza picked up the protesters, which people online said was a “Dunkirk evacuation” staged in Hong Kong on September 1.