Hong Kong police arrested a 12-year-old girl who ran “in a suspicious manner” during a protest on Sunday, drawing local and international criticism.
The protest, which took place in the Mong Kok region, has been the largest demonstration in the city since the national security law came into effect on July 1.
A now-viral video shows the girl seemingly being cornered by police before trying to run away.
One officer tackled the child, while a few more helped to pin her down.
The girl, who sustained minor injuries from the encounter, said that she ran because she was scared.
“The streets were cut off by police cordons so we had to double back to meet our family,” she told i-Cable News. “But the police suddenly ran towards us. I was scared.
“They told us to stand still, but I panicked so I ran.”
The girl and her brother were fined for violating COVID-19 social-distancing rules against gatherings of more than two people, according to the South China Morning Post.
Hong Kong police confirmed the girl’s arrest hours after the incident. They argued that she ran “in a suspicious manner” and that officers only used “minimum required force” to apprehend her.
“The police are very concerned about the participation of underage girls in banned group gatherings, and they are even more worried that the girls’ personal safety will be threatened when they are in chaotic and illegal demonstrations. The police strongly urge that minors should stay away from high-risk demonstrations,” they said in a statement.
Speaking to Apple Daily, the girl’s mother explained that her children were simply caught up in the protest crowd.
The girl’s brother (in the striped shirt), who was also tackled (but not seen in the viral video), said that they were only shopping for art supplies at the time.
The siblings’ mother plans to lodge a formal complaint against the police. She pointed out that on top of her children’s injuries, the resulting psychological trauma was even greater.
“In this day and age, I know complaining will be a waste of breath. But [we] still want to have [the incident] on the record,” she said.
Around 2,000 police officers were deployed ahead of the protest on Sunday. At the end of it, nearly 300 people were arrested, including the siblings.
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