Hong Kong police have been strongly criticised over the rough arrest of a 12 years-old girl to ground near a pro-democracy protest went viral. Police on Facebook said that the girl was attempting to flee during a stop-and search action on Sunday in Mong Kok a and they had used the “minimum necessary force” in subduing her.
The girl’s family say she was simply out to buy school supplies and became scared when confronted by police.
Video widely shared across social media and in Hong Kong media showed the officers seeking to corral a group of people including the young girl, who ducked aside and tried to run away. An officer tackled he to the ground, while several others helped to pin her down.
“The streets were cut off by police cordons so we had to double back to meet our family… but the police suddenly ran towards us. I was scared. They told us to stand still, but I panicked so I ran,” she told i-Cable news.
The girl’s mother said she intended to sue and lodge a formal complaint. She said her daughter and her 20-year- old son- who were both fined under the city’s pandemic- related laws against gatherings- were out buying art supplies, and that the girl ran away because she was scared. Her daughter was bruised and scratched after the encounter.
Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy legislator, said the actions taken towards the girl “show how unnecessarily jumpy and trigger-happy Hong Kong police have become.”
What do Hong Kong police say?
In a statement, police said they had been intercepting protesters in Mong Kok who had refused to disperse following warning to leave.
Police said officers had wanted to “stop and search” the girl, but “she suddenly ran away in a suspicious manner.” Officers therefore chased and subdued her with use of minimum necessary force.
Following an investigation, they determined that “she and other protesters at the scene were participating in a prohibited goup gathering” and breaching coronavirus regulations, so they were given penalty tickets.
The police added that they were “concerned about youngsters participating in prohibited group ” gathering that could endanger “their own personal safety” , and that they hoped young people would “stay away from high-risk protests and avoid putting themselves in danger”.
In an opinion survey that Hong Kongers’ approval of the police dropped from 66.9% in 2017 to 36.8% in 2020 after a series of protests.