As protests in Hong Kong enter their 10th consecutive week, videos have emerged of police officers dressed as anti-government demonstrators engaging in violent clashes with protest groups.
The clips show what appear to be armed officers wearing black tops and gas masks emerging from crowds and allegedly restraining protesters violently on the ground using batons and other weapons. One video shows individuals who are believed to be police officers pushing protesters down a moving escalator, while other reports suggest that police fired tear gas inside an enclosed Hong Kong subway station.
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“Hong Kong has just seen its darkest weekend in contemporary history,” a masked protester said in a video. She went on to describe how police had turned Hong Kong’s Kwai Fong subway station into a “gas chamber” and alleged that police also fired at protesters “within a metre’s range of their guns.”
After several weeks of protests, thousands of protesters forced the Hong Kong International Airport to cancel all of its flights on Monday, pledging to restart flights on Tuesday at 6 a.m.
Over the weekend, protesters threw up barricades across the city as police fired tear gas into underground train stations and used bullets and pepper pellets at short range. Scores of protesters were arrested.
The masked protester in the video went on to compare the Hong Kong police forces to Adolf Hitler’s regime, saying that such dehumanization was used to “sanction and justify the genocide of the Jews who were truly dehumanized by the Nazis.”
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The protester also said police officers had “infiltrated the crowd” and called for an independent investigation into their practices.
Hong Kong police have defended their use of force against protesters.
Deputy Commissioner Tang Ping-keung acknowledged that police use decoy officers in some operations but would not go into details. He confirmed to the South China Morning Post that 15 protesters were arrested in one decoy operation in Causeway Bay on Sunday night.
“Our decoy officers do not take part in any unlawful activities,” Tang said.
The decoy team, known to some as the “raptors” and the “blue team,” according to SCMP, were originally formed during the 2014 Occupy movement to disperse and arrest protesters.
Police confirmed that officers fired one shot of tear gas into a train station Sunday, saying it was necessary to disperse violent protesters. Addressing criticism of riot police firing pepper spray pellets at close range, officials said the weapon was not lethal but that they would review the incident.
They said they were still gathering evidence about whether a young female protester who was pictured with a bleeding eye was hit by police.
Pro-democracy activists and rights groups have begun to decry the practices of the police.
Civil Rights Observer, a local rights group that sends observers to protests, told the Guardian it had “very serious concerns” about the police violence it had seen. A spokesperson for the group added that they believe there is “very clear evidence to show police are violating their guidelines.”
The spokesperson also said that the group is specifically concerned with the use of undercover officers.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems.” In recent years, however, some Hong Kong residents have accused Beijing of chipping away at the democratic freedoms promised to them under the agreement.
Protests have escalated over the past two months to the point of taking over the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
— With files from the Associated Press