Parents have been warned against taking their kids to street demonstrations after an eight-year-old boy was pepper- sprayed by police during anti-budget clashes.
Security chief Ambrose Lee Siu- kwong yesterday condemned the violence in Sunday’s protest and said it was “quite inappropriate” to use children as “a weapon for resistance.”
His remarks came hours after police arrested 113 protesters – the youngest aged just 12 – who blocked the intersection of Des Voeux Road Central and Ice House Street.
All have been released on bail but told to report back to the police in early June.
Protester Elsa Ko said her son Joseph, eight, was pepper-sprayed without warning. “Why did the government and the police in which I put so much trust fire pepper spray without warning?” she asked.
“Hong Kong is a safe place, so I thought there was nothing wrong with bringing children on to the streets to air our views. Can we no longer do this in Hong Kong?”
Ko, a mother of two, said taking her son to the protest was part of his “civic education.” Joseph was treated at the scene and went to school as usual yesterday. His 12-year-old sister did not join the protest.
Ko said she would have removed her son from the scene had the police warned they would use pepper spray.
But Lee said that, as far as he knew, police issued several warnings before using pepper spray. Officers used “minimal force” only after some protesters clashed with the police and refused to disperse.
Responding to Ko’s accusation about an absence of advance warnings, Lee said: “If this really happened, I would feel regret.”
But he added: “No children should be brought to clash areas as they are not psychologically mature yet. Violent scenes could set a bad example for them. As I have said many times before, no matter how noble protesters’ motives, or how just your actions, resorting to violence will make your acts unlawful.”
One of the three police officers injured in Sunday’s clashes remained in Queen Mary Hospital last night. After visiting him yesterday, Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung said the officer was injured around the waist and could not walk.
He warned protesters that seizing or pushing police barricades will be seen as a challenge to authority and will lead to prosecutions. Those who disrupt road traffic or movement of people will be forcibly removed, he warned, while all officers have been authorized to use pepper spray on “those who are particularly violent.”
League of Social Democrats chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang, who was among the 113 arrested, admitted he was unable to control some of the rowdier protesters.
Pan-democrat lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said the rowdiness in protests is a warning to the government that social discontent is escalating