HONG KONG: Legislative Council (LegCo) members stood between protesters and police during violent clashes in Mong Kok, a move which "seriously obstructed” officers from performing their duties, said Hong Kong police on Monday (Jul 8).
On Sunday afternoon, thousands of demonstrators marched from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon train station in a peaceful protest against the controversial extradition Bill.
However, violence broke out in Mong Kok after 11pm, following a tense 20-minute standoff between riot police officers and protesters.
Police said while the afternoon protest was generally peaceful and orderly, some protesters had started to block Nathan Road, the main road through the Kowloon area.
But just as they started to take "dispersal action", they found that some LegCo members had put themselves between police officers and the protesters.
READ: Hong Kong protesters and police clash in Mong Kok after peaceful rally at West Kowloon train station
READ: ‘Nearest place to mainland China’: Hong Kong protest organiser on why they rallied at West Kowloon station
“During last night and recent operations, police found that certain LegCo members frequently stood before the police cordon line, blocking officers in moving forward,” police said in a statement on Monday.
“This not only seriously obstructed police in performing their duties but also caused danger to the personal safety of LegCo members themselves as well as police officers, reporters and protestors.
"The purpose of police dispersal action was to restore public safety and order as soon as possible and to minimise the inconvenience caused to the public due to road blockage."
Several protesters were detained by riot police and some were led away into police vans.
Police also appealed to the public “not to obstruct its operations by any means or they might be liable to the offence of obstructing police officers”.
“Police understand the work of LegCo members and are willing to explain police work to them at an appropriate time, but this must be carried out without affecting police operations and its effectiveness,” it added.
“It is absolutely impossible to suspend law enforcement operations, such as when the dispersal operation is taking place, to explain to members.”
Protest organisers said 230,000 people had marched from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon train station, where high-speed rail takes tourists from mainland China to Hong Kong. Police put the attendance at 56,000 at its peak.
Meanwhile, pro-democracy LegCo members on Monday condemned police on their handling of the protest, saying that officers adopted a “dangerous strategy” and tried to “provoke” the demonstrators.
"The police seem to be adopting this very dangerous strategy, tactic on site, trying to provoke, even to incite the relatively, fairly peaceful protesters and demonstrators last night," said Claudia Mo, a member of the pan-democracy camp.
"The Carrie Lam government is not just facing a governance crisis. She's facing a huge confidence crisis in Hong Kong vis-à-vis her administration," she told reporters.