A pregnant woman was caught in a scuffle between protesters and Hong Kong police, who deployed pepper spray at crowds gathered for a demonstration on Monday, August 31.
Video of the incident has been widely shared across social media, including by prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong.
In the video, taken in the busy shopping district of Mong Kok, police dressed in riot gear can be seen surrounding a group of demonstrators. Footage shows police trying to separate a man and woman as angry onlookers try to prevent the police action.
Amid the scuffle, the woman is pulled to the ground as police deployed pepper spray to disperse the crowds. An officer and several onlookers then rushed to her aid.
A photo from the incident widely shared on social media shows the woman clutching her pregnant belly while on the pavement.
The incident took place after dozens of Hong Kong residents gathered to mark the anniversary of an event that occurred at Prince Edward Station last year, in which protesters accused the police of indiscriminately attacking passengers at the station while carrying out arrests.
After the scuffle, the woman told local media that police pushed her to the ground and deployed pepper spray in her direction. Relatives told the outlet that she is about seven or eight months pregnant.
Following the incident, the Hong Kong Police Force “expressed concern” for the woman’s condition.
“While arresting a man for disorderly conduct, officers pulled away an accompanying woman who was later found to be pregnant,” police wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “We express concern for the pregnant woman, who was affected during the chaos.”
In a statement on Facebook, police said that the pregnant woman felt “unwell” after the incident.
“While arresting a man on Argyle Street near Tung Choi Street, officers pulled away an accompanying woman and deployed pepper spray in response to the situation. Later, the woman was found to be pregnant, who felt unwell.”
Police said that officers on the scene “rendered assistance” and called an ambulance to transport the woman to the hospital for treatment. They reiterated that the police force remains “highly concerned” for the woman’s wellbeing.
But netizens criticized the police for confronting protesters and for using unnecessary force to carry out arrests.
“Stop fabricating facts,” tweeted Patrick Poon, an independent human rights researcher in Hong Kong, in response to the police tweet. “The pregnant woman was clearly pushed by the police.”
“Have you lost all sense of humanity to do this to a pregnant woman, whether she was protesting or not? You all deserve to be stripped of your badges,” another user tweeted.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law tweeted about the incident and called for justice.
“Terrible police violence once again, and none of these Hong Kong police officers will undergo any forms of investigation,” he wrote. “The autocracy feeds them.
“We need justice to be done,” he added.
Tensions are rising in Hong Kong after Beijing unilaterally imposed a sweeping national security law on the city. Several prominent pro-democracy activists, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai and Demosisto leader Agnes Chow, were arrested last month under the new law.