Hong Kong police criticised over rough arrest of 12-year-old girl during protests

Screengrabs from a video of a 12-year-old girl being tackled by Hong Kong police
Screengrabs from a video of a 12-year-old girl being tackled by Hong Kong police

Hong Kong police faced outrage on Sunday after an officer tackled a 12-year-old girl to the ground, whose family say she was caught in a protest while out buying art supplies. 

A video widely shared online shows riot police pushing the youngster to the ground as she tried to dash away. She was later charged for allegedly violating coronavirus social distancing rules, police said. 

“She was just trying to buy art supplies with her brother,” her mother told local media.

Police later expressed concerns in a statement posted to Facebook and said the girl was running in a “suspicious manner” that therefore required officers to chase and subdued her with the use of “minimum force”.

The arrest came amid demonstrations against delayed parliamentary elections, participated by hundreds of protesters facing off with thousands of riot police in Hong Kong.

Around 290 people were arrested in the biggest single-day sweep since early July and one of the largest demonstrations since a draconian national security law was imposed by Beijing on the special territory.

The new law, introduced July 1, criminalises acts deemed as secession, subversion, terrrorism and foreign collusion, making them punishable by life imprisonment.

Protest slogans and songs are banned, and books deemed politically sensitive have been pulled from public library shelves. 

During the protests activists were arrested for a range of alleged infractions, including chanting anti-government protest slogans, engaging in unlawful assembly, misconduct in a public place and failing to produce identification.

Screengrabs from a video of a 12-year-old girl being tackled by Hong Kong police
Screengrabs from a video of a 12-year-old girl being tackled by Hong Kong police

Before the protest, activist Tam Tak-chi, 47, was arrested on suspicion of “uttering seditious words,” police said. 

The 2020 Hong Kong Legislative Council election was originally scheduled on September 6 2020 until it was postponed by the government for a whole year, with coronavirus concerns cited by officials as the cause of the delay. 

Activists have criticised Hong Kong authorities for using the pandemic to delay an election it appeared poised to lose, especially as the decision to suspend polls came after several pro-democracy opposition candidates were barred from running. 

“The government took away our voting rights,” Ms Wu, 23, a clerk, told the Telegraph.

In recent months Hong Kong authorities have engaged in a wider, chilling crackdown on dissent, which has included the mass arrests of leading pro-democracy activists.

The government has also arrested journalists, academics and politicians.