The Hong Kong protests gained momentum after footage was released of protesters defending themselves from pepper spray with umbrellas, but Occupy supporters may have a new face for their movement. On Oct. 15, Civic Party protester and social worker Ken Tsang Kin-chiu was filmed being dragged away from a crowd to the back of a nearby building by six Hong Kong police and beaten for several minutes after having already been handcuffed.
Bailiffs backed by police attempted to remove barricades blocking Sai Yeung Choi Street near government headquarters in the Admiralty district while clashes between police and pro-democracy protestors erupted near Admiralty camp. The protesters, in dwindling numbers and exhausted after two months of sit-ins, resisted the clearing.
The demonstrations have been part of a two-month-long response to China’s legislature setting guidelines for the elections of Hong Kong’s chief executive. To many, the rules mean that only candidates approved by Beijing will appear on the ballot.
Tension then heightened between Hong Kong’s government and Occupy supporters after a local TV network called TVB aired video of the beating later that day, originally filmed by the Apple Daily newspaper. Shortly after, police authorities suspended the involved officers and began launching an investigation surrounding the incident.
Hours after the footage started circulating online, BBC’s website was completely blocked in China, for the first time since 2010. “The BBC strongly condemns any attempts to restrict free access to news and information and we are protesting to the Chinese authorities,” BBC Director of Global News Peter Horrocks stated in regards to the incident.
Seven policemen have been arrested in connection to the event. The police stated that these particular officers had previously been suspended and are currently being detained on the basis of “assault resulting in grievous bodily harm.”
Tsang’s lawyer has commented that the beatings continued even after Tsang was held in the police station. Images allegedly depicting his back after the attack have resulted in public outrage. Later, a police spokesman commented to the press that Tsang had agreed to identify the assailants but never arrived.
Criticism arose on the police’s handling of the case, resulting in a promise from the force that all proper procedures were being followed. A police spokesman commented “if any other officer is suspected of illegal behavior, the police will investigate impartially and not show favoritism.”
First-year Mimi Chenyao’s family hails from China and Chenyao has traveled there. She is concerned in light of the recent violence, but she is also pleased to see momentum towards a new system.
“I am glad that the Chinese citizens are finally speaking out against the government,” Chenyao said. “I come from a family that doesn’t really like to talk about things that are wrong with the system. It is meaningful to see this change happen.” In regards the Tsang incident particularly, Chenyao is less optimistic.
“In a place where citizens dedicate their lives to their country and society, it is infuriating to see officials abusing their power,” Chenyao added.
Recent efforts to clear streets were prompted by court injunctions. Businesses such as the city’s taxis are significantly affected by the mobilizations. Mong Kok has been cleared, leaving two other sites, one of which is the largest protest located in the center of the financial district.