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HK police deny they showed leniency to pro-Beijing supporters

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police yesterday denied accusations of leniency towards pro-Beijing gangs who attacked pro-democracy supporters during a weekend marked by multiple bloody street brawls.

The once-stable global hub has been hit by weeks of huge, sometimes violent rallies calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

The movement is the biggest challenge to China's rule since the city was handed back by Britain in 1997 and shows no sign of ending, with city leaders and Beijing taking a hard line.

On Sunday, riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at pro-democracy protesters who were hurling rocks and petrol bombs, capping a 15th consecutive weekend of large peaceful rallies followed by clashes.

But there was also an uptick in bloody street fights, with people on both sides of the political divide being attacked.

At a press conference yesterday, police showed videos of multiple instances where individuals were attacked by pro-democracy supporters, including one where a man was kicked unconscious by a mob.

SPIRALLING VIOLENCE

Pro-democracy activists were seen beating people in at least four separate locations throughout Sunday, with the unconscious man taken to hospital in a critical condition.

"The violence has again spiralled out of control and the situation is worrying," police spokesman John Tse told reporters.But the police presentation spent little time documenting or condemning attacks by government supporters that occurred on both Saturday and Sunday .

On Sunday evening, videos were posted on social media of officers seemingly helping government supporters protect their identities or leave the scene.

One video showed two men - being escorted by riot police - repeatedly punching and kicking reporters, with police seemingly not intervening, which sparked criticism from local press groups.

Many contrasted the footage with harsher treatment meted out to pro-democracy protesters when arrested.

But the police denied it had exhibited any double standards.

"In terms of differential treatment, I must refute (that)," Superintendent Tse told reporters, adding police had arrested 29 people in North Point on Sunday night from both political camps. - AFP

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