Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu told the Legislative Council that 3,001 people had been arrested in connection with the protests as of October 31, and that 165 were younger than 16. On September 11, only 36 people under 16 had been arrested.
Social work sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said the surge in youth arrests suggested that police had changed their strategy to mainly target university and secondary school students.
Lee said that police had put in place clear guidelines for handling child or juvenile arrestees to protect their rights, including making all reasonable efforts to tell their parents or guardians to come to the police station.
But Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said police were not following the guidelines and some parents had struggled to find their children who had been arrested.
Several people were reported injured over the past few days of increasingly violent clashes involving protesters, police, pro-government and anti-government groups.
In Tin Shui Wai on Wednesday night, a 15-year-old male student surnamed Fu was allegedly shot in the head by tear gas canisters, when police fired rounds of tear gas to disperse the crowd at Kingswood Richly Plaza on Tin Wu Road.
The local media reported that Fu was found unconscious on the ground and had suffered from a skull fracture. He was sent to Tuen Mun Hospital for treatment and remains in critical condition after undergoing a four-hour surgery.
Keswick Chuk Wing-hung, a senior social worker who helped Fu, told media at the hospital that it was unclear how the incident had happened. According to Chuk, Fu lives in the area, so he could have been protesting, or just walking by the scene.
Chuk said Fu’s family members were very concerned and did not understand why the police would aim at his head when firing tear gas. He urged the police to give an account of the incident, while the family would wait until Fu is fully recovered to decide whether or not they would hold the force accountable for Fu’s injury.
Fu is a form four student at Pui Shing Catholic Secondary School in the district, the alma mater of pro-democracy politician Raymond Wong Yuk-man, who visited the school last month for a sharing session.
The school’s student concern group confirmed with Young Post that the wounded teenager is their schoolmate. They have appealed to current students and alumni to sign a joint petition in urging the school to immediately condemn what they see as inappropriate use of force by the police. As of Thursday morning, they have received 75 signatures.
“The abuse of power by the police did not happen overnight, it has gotten worse and worse in the past five months. At first, some of our students were arrested, now a student’s life was threatened,” the group wrote. “We urge the school to condemn police’s inappropriate use of force that hurt our students.”
Young Post has contacted the school for comment.
On Wednesday, a 70-year-old man was struck in the head by a brick during a clash between protesters and Sheung Shui residents on Lung Wan Street, outside the Sheung Shui MTR station. He remains in critical condition as of Thursday noon.
The man was confirmed to be an outsourced worker for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. He was having his lunch break when he got hit, and was taken first to North District Hospital before being transferred to Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, where he was admitted in critical condition.
A government spokesman said in a press release that the government was saddened by the incident and said that the government had been in contact with the man’s family members through the service contractor and would provide all appropriate assistance to them. Police had searched the area, but no arrests were made.
Meanwhile, protester Chow Pak-kwan, 21, who was shot by police with a live round on Monday in Sai Wan Ho, is now in a serious condition. A source says he could leave the intensive care unit and be transferred to a general ward later on Thursday.
The 57-year-old father of two daughters, Leung Chi-cheung, who was set on fire by a protester in Ma On Shan on Monday is still in critical condition. He witnessed the protesters damaging the Ma On Shan station and chased after them. He was later doused with a flammable liquid and set alight. He suffered second-degree burns to 44 per cent of his body, mainly on his chest and arms.