A pro-democracy protester who was filmed being beaten by Hong Kong police officers said on Wednesday that he suffered further violence in detention, as footage of the assault stirred outrage on the streets of the city.
The footage was aired on local TV network TVB, before being posted to social media, further escalating tensions in the Special Autonomous Region which has been gripped by three weeks of mass demonstrations. It shows six plainclothes policemen pulling an unarmed and handcuffed activist behind a building, before kicking him and beating him on the ground.
The man, Ken Tsang, a social worker and member of the opposition Civic Party, was then taken to a police station; upon his release, before the maximum detention period of 24 hours expired, he told supporters he had been beaten again inside.
"You should've seen the footage of a number of police officers brutally assaulting me when I was detained and defenseless," he said. "Prior to that I was assaulted, and later I was assaulted yet again in the police station."
Tsang said he would be taking legal action against the officers concerned, as protesters descended on the police headquarters on Thursday night.
Police also used pepper spray and batons to clear protesters from Lung Wo Road, and arrested an estimated 45 people for "unlawful assembly."
Anna Cheung, associate professor at New York's Manhattanville College and friend of Ken Tsang's, told VICE News that she was deeply angered by what had happened, and that the police actions were completely disproportionate to the behavior of the protesters.
"Not even one glass was broken so far. People in Hong Kong are very educated, very rational, the most polite and civilised protesters. We want the government to engage in a sensible dialogue with the protesters and students. We want this to end in a peaceful way, but now my dear friend got hurt."
Cheung said that Tsang had just returned from a backpacking trip in Central America, and that while he may have spilled some water he was completely unarmed. She added that none of his friends know why he was the one who was targeted.
"I don't want to say that it will escalate the protests but we need to realise that we need to confront this excessive police force," she said. "It is not going to be tolerated by anyone in the civilised world."
The professor said she did not believe this was an isolated incident. "But now with the video and the social media, everybody has seen this," she continued. "It's not like this is a first case. We are not naïve. I do not want to say that this is what they are doing all the time but once in a while you would hear someone say this."
She added that she was aware the protests didn't represent all citizens of Hong Kong. "I think you cannot say they represent 100 percent but you can see 100,000 people, and most of these are youngsters, but you can also see older ones. So I would say a lot of people do care about this, because this is Hong Kong's future."
Cheung also suggested that some people were being paid by pro-Beijing groups to demonstrate against the protests — a claim that could not be independently confirmed — though she acknowledged that the majority on both sides are normal citizens.
Meanwhile, a retired Chinese official has suggested that the protests are being fuelled by foreign intelligence agencies in an organised conspiracy against Beijing.
The police have released a statement in response to the allegations, saying that they "express concern" and have "already taken immediate action and will conduct (an) investigation impartially." Lai Tung-kwok, Hong Kong's security secretary, said that the officers seen in the video would be removed from their current duties.
Asked whether the police statement reassured her, Cheung said that she didn't think it was enough, and that until this sort of police brutality was adequately dealt with "we definitely will not let it go."
Amnesty Hong Kong has condemned the "vicious attack," with director Mabel Au saying: "It is stomach-churning to think there are Hong Kong police officers that feel they are above the law."
Another friend of Tsang's told VICE News that 12 hours later Tsang was still being detained, and that the Hong Kong police can hold him for up to 24 hours.
As many as 200,000 local protesters have occupied sections of the city over the past two weeks, in an attempt to pressure the government not to implement new curbs on democracy.
Beijing had promised to allow open elections for the Hong Kong chief executive in 2017, but in August announced that only candidates pre-screened by a nomination committee would be allowed to run. That committee will be formed under the supervision of Hong Kong's Beijing-leaning election commission, and activists fear that the Chinese government will use it to impose its preferred candidates.
Many protesters are also demanding that Hong Kong's current leader, 60-year-old Leung Chun-ying, resign. Leung has said that the chance of rules changing in time for the 2017 election is "almost zero."
Hong Kong is officially a Special Administrative Region of China, and is governed under a "one country, two systems" model, which is supposed to guarantee a high degree of autonomy for the city, though rights groups have warned that the situation has worsened in recent years.
On Tuesday AP reported that authorities in China have ordered books by Chinese-American scholar Yu Ying-shih, liberal economist Mao Yushi, constitutional law professor Zhang Qianfan, and Taiwanese writer Giddens Ko to be removed from sale, in an attempt to express displeasure with writers showing support for pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
An article in Wednesday's People's Daily, an official newspaper of the Chinese government, said that the protests represented "an unprecedented defiance," warned of the potential economic implications, and added that "every new move increases the price that Hong Kong will have to pay for this political chaos."
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