Hong Kong police arrest protesters over social distancing violation


Riot police chased protesters through Hong Kong’s shopping malls and streets on Sunday, May 10, and arrested at least 10 after dispersing pro-democracy demonstrators who defied social distancing rules, local media reported.

Demonstrators appeared in malls across Hong Kong, including Tsim Sha Tsui, Mongkok, Taikoo Shing and Sha Tin districts, chanting anti-government slogans and singing protest songs.

The police warned them that they were in violation of rules against group gatherings put in place to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

RTHK reported police arrested at least 10 people and fired pepper balls – projectiles that contain irritants that are used to disperse crowds.

A 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old student reporter were among those taken away, the report said.

Police representatives didn’t immediately respond to calls and an email seeking comment.

Hong Kong on Friday eased restrictions on the number of people permitted to gather socially because of the pandemic, raising the limit to eight from four previously. Small anti-government protests have returned to the city in the past weeks after a lull because of the spread of Covid-19.

The semi-autonomous Chinese city was convulsed by seven straight months of often violent pro-democracy protests last year, with millions hitting the streets.

Mass arrests and the coronavirus pandemic ushered in a period of enforced calm.

Although the coronavirus has largely been brought under control in recent weeks, the economy doesn’t have the scope to handle protests that are making a comeback and could interfere with the recovery, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan wrote in a blog yesterday.

“The epidemic can be prevented and controlled, but violence is hard to stop,” Mr Chan wrote.

“In recent days, crowds and conflicts have reappeared in some areas, and even interfered with the operations of shops or malls. This is absolutely bad news for the already-weak Hong Kong economy, retail market, small shops and wage earners.”

On Saturday night, dozens of protesters appeared at malls in Diamond Hill and Tai Po shouting anti-government slogans before riot police cleared the crowds.

Hong Kong reported three new coronavirus infections yesterday, all imported, for a total of 1,047 confirmed cases. The city has not recorded any locally transmitted cases for more than 20 days. (Source: The Straits Times)