Hong Kong police recorded more than 80 cases of arson involving shops with alleged links to mainland China since October 1 and some shop owners reported losses of property as well as damage to their premises.
Cheuk Hau-yip, the regional police commander for Kowloon West, said some shops had been looted after being damaged by fire during the protests.
At the police press conference on Monday, Cheuk said one of the vandalized shops lost mobile phones and electronic devices worth a total value of HK$2.5 million (US$318,762).
People vandalizing shops faced not only charges of criminal damage, Cheuk warned, but also theft, and any offender found guilty could be jailed for up to 10 years.
Since October 1, there were 80 recorded cases of arson, more than 750 criminal damage cases and 28 burglaries, some involving places that had been vandalized or damaged by fire, he said.
Radical protesters responsible for the vandalism targeted mainland Chinese-related businesses and shops.
A China Mobile shop in Sham Shui Po discovered 200 mobile phones and products missing, while another shop in Ma On Shan lost 30 mobile phones, the Ming Pao Daily reported. Their stores in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok were also damaged.
Chinese electronics brand Xiaomi, which has a store in Mong Kok, also encountered the same risks.
On Sunday night, a man was caught by protesters after sneaking into a vandalized Xiaomi shop in Mong Kok and stealing three phones, the Sing Tao Daily reported.
People surrounded the man and bound him with cable ties to a lamppost. Police later arrived and untied the man and arrested him for suspected theft.
A police source was quoted as saying there were at least 10 burglary cases related to the anti-government protests this month, while three of those cases involved damage to lawmakers’ offices where computers and hard discs were stolen.
Meanwhile, police found a rise in other non-protest related burglary cases in the past two to three months. The rise might be because the force had deployed officers to handle the protests leaving a lack of resources for local communities.
A police source worried the situation would be getting worse as the economy slows down in the coming months.
Meanwhile, a senior superintendent from the police force said penalizing the officer in charge of the water cannon that sprayed blue dye at the Kowloon Mosque on Sunday would not be any help.
Speaking at the police press briefing on Monday, Wong Wai-shun, the senior superintendent of operations, said citizens and protesters did not disperse despite a warning on Sunday, prompting officers to fire the colored liquid to clear the road, inevitably affecting innocent citizens and buildings.
Wong stressed that the police had followed the principles of using the water cannon when there were situations that led or may lead to serious injury or loss of life, widespread destruction of property and disruptions or blockages of traffic resulting in significant consequences for public order.
But he admitted that there were some restrictions in such operations which made it difficult for the officers to make sure other people weren’t affected.
Superintendent Swalikh Mohammed, a member of an ethnic minority, said the use of the water cannon was to protect the mosque.
“The purpose of the police operation was to disperse a crowd that was very dangerous. There was also information that some people might damage the mosque,” he said.
But videos online showed the water cannon vehicle stopping in front of the entrance and gates of the Kowloon Islamic Center, then targeting a group of about 10 people and firing the blue-dyed water at them.
The group, including the former chairman of the Indian Association, lawmakers and assistants and reporters, were reportedly there. Some held placards that said they would protect the place of worship after rumors of attacks. No black-clad protesters were seen.
On Monday morning, the chief executive and the police chief visited the mosque and delivered an apology to Muslim leaders and the community for what the authorities described as an “accident,” which sparked another round of condemnation against the police force and the government.
Meanwhile, police arrested 32 men and 11 women aged between 15 and 67 on Sunday during Kowloon’s massive-scale protest for allegedly violating the mask ban, illegal assembly, attacking police, arson and other offenses.
One man was released after he applied for a writ of habeas corpus at the High Court on Monday, alleging police had detained him without reason.
Barrister Hectar Pun said the applicant, aged between 20 and 30, was arrested when he was on the sidewalk in Jordan. He did not do any illegal activity and did not possess any prohibited items.
According to a previous report in Asia Times, the police fired tear-gas on Nathan Road while some passers-by ran away and some shouted at police. As black-shirted people were too far away to apprehend, the police randomly arrested a passer-by instead.
It was understood that the applicant was arrested at about 4pm on Sunday and he only found out that he was arrested for alleged unlawful assembly when the police took him to the police station, the Ming Pao Daily reported.
The court also heard that the applicant had asked to know the identity of the officer who arrested him three times, but the force provided three different answers. They firstly said the officer was from the police tactical unit and it was too sensitive to disclose his identity, then told him that they had no idea and finally said the officer was from the commercial crime unit.
Pun said the police had unlawfully detained the applicant and did not have grounds to keep him in detention and he asked the police to release the applicant immediately.
Although the police can detain an arrested person for 48 hours, it doesn’t mean the police can detain any citizen whenever they like, Pun said.
A representative from the department of justice later informed the court that the applicant would be released soon but did not provide any reason. The case was adjourned.