Seven Hong Kong police officers are arrested for an alleged assault on a protester
Footage of the alleged assault, in which the man was kicked and punched, caused outrage
Authorities cleared a major pro-democracy protest site in Mong Kok Wednesday
But hours after the road reopened, protesters took to the streets threatening to reoccupy
Seven Hong Kong police officers have been arrested for assault over an alleged case of police brutality at pro-democracy protests last month which shocked residents of the Chinese territory.
Footage of the alleged assault, taken by a TV crew at the city’s main protest site in Admiralty on October 15, was widely disseminated online, sparking an outcry from the public, politicians and rights groups.
It appeared to show officers leading the man to a dark corner, where he was laid on the ground and repeatedly kicked and punched while others stood around, keeping watch.
The alleged victim was identified as Ken Tsang, a member of the Civic Party political group. He is also a social worker and a member of the 1,200 member election committee that chooses Hong Kong’s leader. Photos were subsequently released by the Civic Party showing Tsang with a bruised face and welts on his back.
In a statement Wednesday announcing the arrests, police addressed criticism they had taken too long to act, saying they had not delayed the handling of the case. The statement said Tsang had failed to show up to an identification parade Wednesday.
Police hold Mong Kok
The announcement came as police and protesters again faced off in the Mong Kok district Wednesday evening, hours after authorities cleared barricades and tents from a demonstration camp and arrested prominent pro-democracy activists.
The clearances, which began Tuesday, were carried out in accordance with court injunctions obtained by local business interests, following complaints that the protests have disrupted commercial life in the city.
In a major operation Wednesday morning, police and bailiffs had worked to reopen a major road which had been occupied to varying extents since pro-democracy protests erupted nearly two months ago.
But as day turned into evening – and many Hong Kong residents left work – the bustling commercial district once again filled with thousands of people, some of them protesters and others curious onlookers.
Some activists yelled: “We want to take back the streets!” as they faced off with police and sought to stir up the crowds.
As the atmosphere heated up, Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung called on demonstrators not to reoccupy protest sites, according to public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong.
Police said 159 people had been arrested for various offenses at the Mong Kok protest site since Tuesday, when authorities began their push to clear the Mong Kok site.
Charges have included resisting police, illegal assembly, possession of weapons and attacking police, according to Alice Tam of the Police Public Relations Branch.
Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old founder of the student activist group Scholarism, was among a number of protest leaders arrested Wednesday as the demonstration camp was cleared.
He was scheduled to appear in Kowloon City Court Thursday morning, according to Scholarism’s social media accounts.
Also detained were student leaders Lester Shum and Jason Szeto, according to Hong Kong Federation of Students spokeswoman Yvonne Leung.
Prior to his arrest, Shum, the deputy secretary general of the student federation, told CNN he urged protesters to remain on the streets until they were arrested.
“We will still conduct our civil disobedience action until the last second,” he said.
Lawmaker and pro-democracy activist Leung Kwok-hung, commonly known as “Long Hair,” was among those arrested during confrontations in Mong Kok a day earlier, his office confirmed.
In the wake of the Mong Kok clearance, the Hong Kong Federation of Students said it may target government buildings to build pressure against the government.
“I think we have made it very clear that if they [the police] continue the violent way of clearing up the place, we will have further actions,” Leung told RTHK.
“The further actions include a possibility of some escalations pointed at government-related buildings or some of the government-related departments.”
Pro-democracy protesters have occupied camps in parts of the city for nearly two months, including a main protest site outside government buildings in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island.
Seeking universal suffrage, they want to be able to nominate candidates for the election of the city’s chief executive in 2017. Instead, China’s National People’s Congress has said they’ll be able to vote only for candidates from a shortlist approved by a pro-Beijing committee.
Currently, the chief executive is elected by a specially appointed 1,200-member election committee.
At the peak of the protests in early October, tens of thousands of people were on the streets at three locations. But numbers have dwindled as the protests have continued, and recent local polling suggests support has dipped.
In a random survey of 513 people conducted by the University of Hong Kong, 83% said pro-democracy protesters should cease their occupation of major roads in Hong Kong, while just 13% said the protests should continue.
Since the pro-democracy protests began on September 28, 421 people have been injured, including 79 women, the Hong Kong Information Services Department said.
CNN’s Anna Coren, Anjali Tsui, Bex Wright, Elizabeth Joseph, Vivian Kam, Felicia Wong, Chun Kit and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.