Hong Kong's police force has defended the actions of officers who tackled a 12-year-old girl to the ground in a shocking scene that was captured on video and quickly went viral. Police in riot gear cracked down on an anti-government protest in the Chinese region on Sunday, arresting almost 300 people according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper.
The girl was not taking part in the protest, but walking through the downtownarea on a mission to buy art supplies when she encountered police in body armor. In video of the incident, she appears to get spooked by the police and try to hurry away, but she's chased by an officer and quickly tackled to the ground.
According to the SCMP, the police said in a statement released Monday that the girl was seen acting "suspicious," and that she and her brother were briefly held along with six other people after failing to heed repeated warnings to leave the area. The police insisted that the officers involved had used "minimum force," according to BBC News.
Speaking to SCMP, Billy Wong Wai-yuk of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights called the police officer's actions "unacceptable," pointing out that the girl was clearly a minor and unarmed. "They could have just stopped her or used other means instead of tackling her to the ground."
The incident came after months of allegations against Hong Kong's police force of heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the protesters, who have continuedimposed on the region by 's central government.
Hundreds of protesters have been rounded up since protests first erupted last year, sparked by a proposed law that would have weakened the region's independent judiciary. After months of protests, China imposed the sweeping new law, which critics say goes much further than the legislation that sparked the unrest in the first place.
The U.S. and many other Western nations have said the new law effectively removes the semi-autonomy Hong Kong had enjoyed from Beijing since the province was returned to China in the late 1990s, after decades of British rule. The U.S. has imposedin response, including on Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam.
The SCMP, citing anonymous police sources, said the arrests during Sunday's protests were part of a new police "strategy of intervening more quickly and taking resolute action to stop large crowds from forming."
The police officials were quoted by the newspaper as defending the mass-arrest of peaceful protesters as "necessary" to "prevent more serious crimes and send a clear message to others taking part or thinking of taking part" in protests, which have been banned under the guise of anti-coronavirus measures.