Hong Kong police have been strongly criticised over the rough arrest of a 12-year-old girl whose family says was caught in a protest crowd while out buying art supplies.
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 her to the ground, while several others helped to pin her down.
The arrest came amid the largest street protest seen in Hong Kong since 1 July, the first full day under the national security laws imposed by Beijing on the city, outlawing acts of sedition, secession, foreign collusion and terrorism.
The girl’s mother told Apple Daily 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 “shows how unnecessarily jumpy [and] trigger-happy Hong Kong police have become”.
In a statement a few hours after the incident, Hong Kong police confirmed the arrest of a 12-year-old girl, saying she had run “in a suspicious manner” and officers had used “minimum necessary force” to apprehend her.
“Police were concerned about youngsters participating in prohibited group gathering. Their presence at the chaotic protest scenes also endangers their own personal safety,” it said.
In a later statement police said: “Police attach great importance to integrity. If any person considers he or she is affected by police misconduct, he or she may lodge a complaint to the Complaints Against Police Office. It will be handled in a fair and impartial manner according to established procedures.”
On Sunday night, the Hong Kong government said people had ignored advice from police not to participate in unlawful assemblies, risking anti-pandemic efforts and potentially breaching the national security law. The government “strongly condemn[ed] these unlawful and selfish acts”.
“Police discharged their rightful duties today and took prompt and decisive actions to apprehend the offenders.”
The liaison office for the central government accused protesters of seeking to “reignite war”, and accused them of having “a cold-blooded disregard for the lives and health of the general public” in breaching gathering bans.