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Hong Kong police accuse protesters of helping arrested people escape as crime rates soar

Hong Kong has seen a marked increase in the number of crimes since the start of anti-government protests, police said on Monday (Dec 23) accusing demonstrators of obstructing police duties.

Hong Kong police accuse protesters of helping arrested people escape as crime rates soar

Riot policemen arrest a protester during a rally to show support for Uighurs and their fight for human rights in Hong Kong on Dec. 22, 2019. (Photo: AP/Lee Jin-man)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong has seen a marked increase in the number of crimes since the start of the anti-government protests, police said on Monday (Dec 23), accusing demonstrators of obstructing law enforcement duties.

More than 50 people between 15 years old and 53 years old were arrested over the weekend, police said.

Since June, there has been a significant increase in the number of crimes including burglary, arson and armed robberies, Hong Kong Police's Chief Superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen told reporters.

Police investigate a robbery at a jewellery shop in Hong Kong on Dec 23, 2019. (Photo: AP/Kin Cheung)

The financial hub had recorded the lowest crime rate in 44 years last year, but the “reckless acts” of some protesters had brought Hong Kong’s rule of law “to the brink of total collapse”, with December seeing a number of crimes involving firearms.

Last Friday, a group of protesters surrounded police officers in Tai Po to stop them from arresting a man who had shot at officers with a pistol.

“What’s worse, some lawless people wilfully obstruct our frontline officers in carrying out their duties,” said Kwok.

“Such ridiculous acts have made our work even difficult than it already is."

Screengrabs from a video circulating online. (Photos: Twitter/Global Times)

A subsequent search of a nearby flat uncovered an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and more than 250 rounds of ammunition.

READ: Hong Kong protesters denounce police raid on fundraising platform

Protests in Hong Kong are now in their seventh month, with many residents angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Many Hong Kong people are also furious at perceived police brutality and are demanding an independent investigation into allegations of excessive force.

READ: China won't allow foreign forces to interfere in Hong Kong, Macau, says Xi 

"FAKE NEWS" TO DISCREDIT POLICE

Kwok denounced the use of fake news and misinformation to discredit the police. A largely peaceful rally in support of China's ethnic Uighurs on Sunday ended in chaotic clashes between police officers and demonstrators during which an officer pulled out a gun but did not fire.

A riot policeman points his gun during a rally to show support for Uighurs and their fight for human rights in Hong Kong on Dec 22, 2019. (Photo: AP/Lee Jin-man)

The rally had been approved but police said they took action after protesters assaulted officers to help an arrested person escape.

Kwok said officers had detained a person after protesters removed a national flag from a pole and defaced it.

But as the officers were leaving, they were attacked by a mob who helped the arrested person get away, with one officer being pushed to the ground.

“At this juncture, our officer had pulled out his service revolver to protect his own safety and the safety of his colleagues. Once the situation came under control, he put back his revolver,” Kwok said.

“Although this incident was captured on live TV, many false rumours and made-up stories are circulated online to discredit the police.”

Hong Kong is gearing up for more demonstrations over the Christmas week, with protesters planning events across the city.

Police said they are aware of online comments encouraging violent acts during Christmas activities and celebrations, such as setting fire to Christmas trees in shopping malls.

At least one organiser has withdrawn their application to hold a public event, police said.

"With Christmas around the corner, everyone wishes for a joyful holiday and to spend quality time with their loved ones," Kwok said. 

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

Follow us on Telegram for the latest on Hong Kong: https://cna.asia/telegram

Source: CNA/ec(mi)

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