Hundreds of riot police have descended on protests in Hong Kong shopping centres as hundreds of demonstrators voiced their anger with the authorities they say are abusing social distancing laws to restrict civil liberties.
In Moko mall in Mong Kok on Sunday (local time), a policeman shot pepper balls at protesters and journalists who were one floor above after a water bottle was thrown towards a group of officers from that level.
Police arrested at least 11 people, including a 12-year-old girl, and issued fines to dozens more for violating a social distancing order prohibiting more than eight people from gathering in a public place.
Democratic lawmaker Andy Yu said that two student reporters, aged 13 and 16, were “unjustly arrested” at Harbour City shopping centre in the upscale Tsim Sha Tsui district.
One of the men who was fined at Moko shopping centre told local broadcaster RTHK he had simply been shopping and not protesting, when police issued the fine.
Earlier in the day, a heavy police presence thwarted a Hong Kong Independence march called for by the online protest community.
However, hundreds of people wearing masks attended what are known as “sing with you” protests in shopping centres in at least six districts.
Some protesters held black banners advocating Hong Kong’s independence while groups sang the popular protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong.
The online protest community has accused the government of keeping social distancing laws in place to prevent protests since the city has recorded no new locally-transmitted cases of COVID-19 in the last three weeks.
The protests first broke out last June over a proposed bill largely seen as a threat to Hong Kong’s autonomy from China.
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