HONG KONG (AP) — Police in Hong Kong used pepper spray and made several arrests as dozens of protesters gathered Monday at a subway station to mark the anniversary of a violent clash last year that stirred accusations of police brutality during anti-government rallies.
Some protesters came to Prince Edward subway station in Kowloon with white flowers, while others chanted pro-democracy slogans and called for Hong Kong’s independence a year after video showed police using batons to beat people on a train.
Protesters have accused police of indiscriminately attacking passengers on Aug. 31, 2019, while trying to arrest demonstrators at the station, where reporters and medics were refused entry after the clash.
The semi-autonomous Chinese city experienced months of protests last year after the government announced plans to pass an extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Anger over the bill, seen as an infringement on the former British colony’s freedoms, sparked huge demonstrations that at times descended into violence, and rallies continued even after the bill was shelved.
On Monday, police raised a flag, warning those at the protest that they may be violating the city’s national security law, which bans subversion and secession. They used pepper spray to disperse the crowds and arrested at least 14 protesters between 16 and 60 years old on a range of charges, including unlawful assembly, disorder in public places and assaulting police officers.
Among those detained was a 17-year-old boy who claimed to be a reporter, according to a statement posted on Facebook by Hong Kong police.
“Police reiterate that we have zero tolerance towards any illegal acts and we will take enforcement action accordingly,” the statement said.
An additional 37 people were fined for violating social distancing rules that ban public gatherings of more than two people.
The protest comes amid Hong Kong’s third and worst outbreak of the coronavirus, which has infected over 3,000 since early July.