Updated at 9:10 a.m. ET
Hong Kong’s police department says it is investigating reports of excessive use of force against pro-democracy demonstrators today following some of the most intense clashes since the protests ramped up last month.
As we reported earlier, in the past 24 hours “police [have] played a game of Whac-a-Mole with protesters. They cleared streets only to have protesters erect roadblocks elsewhere.” They used pepper spray and batons, dragging off dozens of protesters who sought to set up roadblocks around an underpass near government headquarters, in the heart of the city’s financial district. Authorities made 45 arrests for “unlawful assembly.”
According to The South China Morning Post: “Most of the 45 Occupy [Central] protesters who were arrested during clashes around Lung Wo Road [in Admiralty] are expected to be bailed out, according to their lawyers.”
Protesters had also gathered in the densely populated Mong Kok area of Kowloon.
“Local TV showed images of officers beating a handcuffed protester on Wednesday in some of the worst clashes since the protests began.
“Hong Kong’s security chief said the officers had been ‘temporarily removed from their current duties.’ ”
The Associated Press says:
“Outrage over their aggressive tactics exploded after local TV showed officers taking the protester around a dark corner and kicking him repeatedly on the ground. It’s unclear what provoked the attack. Local Now TV showed him splashing water on officers beforehand.
” ‘Hong Kong police have gone insane today, carrying out their own punishment in private,’ said pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan. ‘Hong Kong’s values and its rule of law really have been completely destroyed by police chiefs.’ ”
“Police spokesman Steve Hui said seven officers who were involved have been temporarily reassigned, and that authorities will carry out an impartial investigation.”
Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s most prominent business tycoon, called today for an end to the demonstrations, declaring that since the former British colony reverted to Chinese control in 1997, “the ‘one country, two system’ formula has protected Hong Kong’s lifestyle.
“I urge everyone not to be agitated. I urge everyone not to let today’s passion become the regret for tomorrow. I earnestly request everyone to return to their families,” Li said in his first public comments on the protests, as quoted by Reuters.