Hong Kong tensions rise as police officers suspended

Violence breaks out overnight as pro-democracy protester beaten by police

 A pro-democracy protester from the Occupy Central movement retreats to a barricade area after police dispersed protesters along a tunnel road in the  Admiralty District of Hong Kong today. Photograph: EPA

A pro-democracy protester from the Occupy Central movement retreats to a barricade area after police dispersed protesters along a tunnel road in the Admiralty District of Hong Kong today. Photograph: EPA

 

Hong Kong authorities said police allegedly involved in the beating of a pro-democracy protester would be removed from their positions after footage of the overnight incident went viral, sparking outrage from some politicians and the public.

Police said they arrested 45 protesters in the early hours of today, using pepper spray on those who resisted, as they cleared a major road in the Chinese-controlled city that had been barricaded by pro-democracy demonstrators with concrete slabs.

Several officers appeared to beat and kick one protester for several minutes after dragging him to a dark corner next to the protest site in footage aired by television broadcaster TVB.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told a news conference that police would investigate the suspected use of excessive force. The officers shown in the video would be removed from their positions, he added.

The incident threatens to inflame tension in Hong Kong, where more than two weeks of protests over Chinese restrictions on how Hong Kong will choose its next leader in 2017 had been losing steam.

Alan Leong, leader of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Civic Party, identified the person in the video as Ken Tsang Kin-chiu and said he was a member of his party.

Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok, a lawyer representing Tsang, said police also beat Tsang inside a police station. Tsang had since been taken to hospital, Kwok said.

Photographs showing Tsang with bruising on his face and body, released by democracy activists, sparked anger and condemnation across Hong Kong.Police, without referring to Tsang, said in a statement they had used minimum force, including pepper spray, to disperse protesters who had gathered illegally overnight.

The operation was the toughest against largely student protesters in more than a week, and came after demonstrators swarmed into a tunnel on a main four-lane thoroughfare late yesterday, halting traffic and chanting for universal suffrage.

“There were so many police. They punched people ... We are peaceful,” Danny Chiu, a student in his 20s, told said, breaking down in tears.

The tunnel in the Admiralty district near government headquarters was reopened after police cleared away makeshift barriers made out of concrete slabs.

Protesters have been demanding full democracy for the former British colony. They are also calling for Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, Leung Chun-ying, to step down.

But their campaign, now into its third week, has caused traffic chaos and drained public support for their actions.

China rules Hong Kong under a “one country, two systems” formula that accords the city a degree of autonomy and freedom not enjoyed in mainland China, with universal suffrage an eventual goal.

Beijing said on August 31st that only candidates that get majority backing from a nominating committee stacked with Beijing loyalists would be able to contest a full city-wide vote to choose Hong Kong’s next leader.

China’s ruling Communist Party believes it has offered enough concessions to Hong Kong in the past, and would give no ground to the protesters because it wants to avoid setting a precedent for reform on the mainland, sources said.

Agencies