Hong Kong: Protesters join MeToo rally against police

Media caption,
This Hong Kong park lit up in a sex abuse protest

Several thousand people have rallied in Hong Kong to protest against alleged sexual violence by police during the past months of demonstrations.

The rally was billed as a #MeToo event, echoing global protests to end sexual assault and harassment.

Organisers said some 30,000 people attended, while police put the figure at 11,500, local media say.

Hong Kong Police said they respected the rights of people in detention, and had not received formal complaints.

At Wednesday's rally, some attendees told the crowd they had been mistreated by police officers.

According to the South China Morning Post, one woman broke down in tears as she accused police of conducting an unnecessary strip-search.

Police officials had denied her allegations on Tuesday, saying their video footage did not support her account.

Image source, iStock
Image caption,
The protesters accused Hong Kong police of using sexual violence as a means of intimidation

Another speaker said her underwear had been exposed while she was dragged away by police, and said officers insulted her and called her a prostitute.

"I told them I was wearing a dress and asked them to let me walk. But, of course, they played deaf," reports quoted her as saying.

"I am not ashamed of talking about what happened that night, because I did not make any mistakes. I am not a weakling. I don't need people to sympathise with me."

The anti-government rallies in Hong Kong have frequently escalated into violence between police and activists, with injuries on both sides.

Police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets, while some activists have thrown bricks, firebombs and other objects. On Wednesday, police said 900 people had been arrested since the protests began.

Demonstrators have repeatedly accused the police of brutality, and are demanding an independent inquiry.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Police have rejected claims that officers abused their power

At a separate protest organised by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, hundreds of people denounced Cathay Pacific Airways for dismissing staff who took part in or supported anti-government rallies.

Cathay Pacific protest

Earlier this month, demonstrations at Hong Kong international airport led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

The protests began as rallies against a controversial extradition bill - now suspended - which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

They have since expanded in scope, becoming a broader pro-democracy movement.

Beijing has repeatedly condemned the protesters and described their actions as "close to terrorism".

Media caption,
How Hong Kong got trapped in a cycle of violence

On Thursday, China's military moved a new batch of troops into Hong Kong. State media described it as a routine annual rotation.

When last year's rotation was announced, it was stated that the number of troops stationed in Hong Kong "was maintained with no change".

There was no such line this time, fuelling speculations Beijing might have raised the number.

News agency Xinhua showed pictures of armoured personnel carriers and trucks, as well as a small naval ship arriving in Hong Kong.

The troop rotation follows reports of increased Chinese military and police presence in the city of Shenzhen just across the border from Hong Kong.

A former British colony, Hong Kong has some autonomy and more rights than the Chinese mainland under a "one country, two systems" agreement.

It has its own judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China. Activists increasingly fear its freedoms are being eroded.

A guide to the Hong Kong protests

Image source, Reuters