Hong Kong Police Arrest Man, Seize Gun ‘He Was Hoping to Use’
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong police arrested a 19-year-old after coming under fire Friday night, and also seized a semi-automatic rifle they say the man planned to use at a public event.
The suspect shot at police with a semi-automatic pistol when they intercepted him, the force said in a video posted on its Facebook page. Officers fired tear gas at a crowd that confronted them at the scene of the incident in Tai Po, according to the post.
Police said the suspect was previously arrested in December 2018 for illegal possession of firearms. He was released on bail in late February and failed to report to police as required this month, according to the post. Officers seized an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and 211 rounds of ammunition in an apartment in the neighborhood after Friday’s arrest, they said.
“According to our intelligence, we know he was hoping to use the gun to cause chaos and hurt police officers during the public gathering,” senior superintendent Steve Li of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau said in the video.
Hong Kong has been gripped by increasingly violent protests that were ignited in June by the government’s plans to enact a law which would have allowed extraditions to jurisdictions including mainland China. The government scrapped the bill after continued public pressure but the unrest continued and protesters’ demands expanded to include broader democracy and an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct.
Arrows, petrol bombs
Demonstrators hurl petrol bombs and launch arrows at riot police almost weekly, while officers have fired more than 10,000 rounds of tear gas, and used rubber bullets and water cannons. At least 6,000 protesters have been arrested since June.
Friday’s arrest comes as Chinese authorities are reported to have ruled out the formation of an independent commission of inquiry. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam sought the central government’s response to the idea during her four-day trip to Beijing this month, South China Morning Post reported on Saturday, citing an unidentified person close to the government.
In another blow for Lam, several retired judges approached by the government have turned down requests to join an independent review committee to look into the ongoing unrest, the Post cited the person as saying.
Public sentiment in Hong Kong seems to be squarely behind the demonstrators, with pro-democracy candidates winning a landslide victory against pro-government rivals in local elections last month. There has been a relative lull in the scale and frequency of the violence since the polls, but the protests are continuing, including rallies planned for this weekend.
Meanwhile police have intensified their efforts to limit financial support for the protesters. On Thursday evening, officers announced the arrest of four people for suspected money-laundering in the first case related to funding of the demonstrations.
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About 80 school teachers and teaching assistants have been arrested for their involvement in anti-government protests, South China Morning Post reported on Saturday, citing Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung. He called for schools to suspend educators held for serious offenses, out of concern for students’ safety.
There were 123 complaints against teachers over protest-related misconduct from mid-June to late November, he said. Four teachers have resigned or been suspended by schools, according to Yeung.
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