Hong Kong police tackled a 12-year old girl to the ground and arrested her on Sunday amid a protests against delayed parliamentary elections.
A video widely shared online shows riot police pushing the youngster to the ground as she tried to dash away. She was later charged for allegedly violating coronavirus social distancing rules, police said.
But her mother told local media: “She was just trying to buy art supplies with her brother.”
The video has sparked outrage online, gathering over a million views on Twitter. On the local Reddit-like forum LIHKG, one commenter criticised the police for being “loud and impolite” as if a “mad dog chasing after people who run.”
In a statement on Facebook, the police said the girl was running in a “suspicious manner” that required officers to chase and subdue her with the use of “minimum force”.
A young girl of school age was just cornered by riot police & proceeded to run away, before being viciously wrestled to the ground, kicked & pinned down by several police officers.
I wish I could say this isn’t normal in Hong Kong today, but it is.
Vid: HKUST student reporters pic.twitter.com/LjaobRN2IB
— Jack Hazlewood (@JackHHazlewood) September 6, 2020
The arrest came amid demonstrations against delayed parliamentary elections, with hundreds of protesters facing off against thousands of riot police.
Around 290 people were arrested in the biggest single-day sweep since early July, in one of the largest demonstrations since a draconian national security law was imposed by Beijing on the territory.
The new law, introduced July 1, criminalises acts deemed as secession, subversion, terrrorism and foreign collusion, making them punishable by life imprisonment.
Protest slogans and songs are banned, and books deemed politically sensitive have been pulled from public library shelves.
During the protests, activists were arrested for a range of alleged infractions, including chanting anti-government protest slogans, engaging in unlawful assembly, misconduct in a public place, and failing to produce identification.
Before the protest, activist Tam Tak-chi, 47, was arrested on suspicion of “uttering seditious words,” police said.
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong appeared nearby the starting point of the march early in the afternoon, but it is unclear if he managed to join it due to the heavy police presence.
“We hope the world can never forget September 6 should be election day. And now Beijing delayed and even cancelled the elections, which is totally unreasonable,” he said.
Clashes erupted on multiple occasions as police fired rounds of pepper balls while protesters hurled water bottles and an umbrella towards them.
The 2020 Hong Kong Legislative Council election was originally scheduled for September 6, until it was postponed for a year by the government, citing coronavirus concerns.
Activists have criticised the Hong Kong authorities for using the pandemic to delay an election it appeared poised to lose, especially as the decision to suspend polls came after several pro-democracy opposition candidates were barred from running.
“The government took away our voting rights,” Ms Wu, 23, a clerk, told the Telegraph.
In recent months Hong Kong authorities have engaged in a wider, chilling crackdown on dissent, which has included the mass arrest of leading pro-democracy activists. Several have fled overseas, including to Britain.
The government has also arrested journalists, academics and politicians.