Peaceful lunchtime demonstrations intended to mark the seven months since the violent mob attack on protesters and railway passengers in Yuen Long offered a twist on Friday, with many of the 200 taking part around Hong Kong celebrating the coronavirus infection of a riot police officer with beer and champagne.
At the atrium of the Landmark shopping centre in Central, about 50 people gathered at 1pm, with some placing a dozen Corona beers on the ground to “celebrate the infection with the coronavirus of a police officer”.
“Please feel free to take a beer and join our celebration,” a protester told passers-by.
David Li, a protest co-organiser in his early 20s, said: “The police are now paying for their brutality in the past months in handling protests. We finally have something to be happy about amid the virus outbreak.”
Gloris Chan, a regular participant at lunchtime protests, accused the force of stockpiling face masks and protective gear during the epidemic, pointing to a recent media report that said the force received the second-largest batch of masks among all government departments.
She said the case of the infected riot police officer, who had been at a large dinner party with fellow officers, reflected the department’s unprofessionalism.
“The police force should be the most disciplined group in society [when it comes to avoiding] gatherings, as they have high risk in spreading germs when patrolling on the street,” she said. “I won’t feel sad about the infection.”
On Thursday night, health authorities confirmed that a 48-year-old policeman had caught the novel coronavirus that causes the disease Covid-19. His wife and mother-in-law also showed symptoms of infection, and were taken to hospital, while 59 other officers in attendance also had to be quarantined.
As soon as the news broke, social media was awash with jubilation and celebration, with some saying it was “karma”.
Back at Landmark, participants stepped on a T-shirt printed with a photo of police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung, accusing him of not holding officers accountable for their non-action in the July 21 Yuen Long mob attack.
Monica Tung, an office worker at a finance company in Central, said: “I came out to tell the police that despite all the news in recent months being about the virus, we will not forget what happened seven months ago when officers did nothing to help our people.”
Hong Kong had 69 reported cases of infection as of Friday afternoon, with two fatalities.
While the crowd in Central dispersed peacefully after a toast, there were standoffs and skirmishes at protests in the shopping district of Causeway Bay and the industrial neighbourhoods of Cheung Sha Wan and Kwun Tong, each of which drew a few dozen participants.
In Kwun Tong, half an hour after demonstrations began, dozens of police officers turned up, stopping and searching participants, before taking away at least one protester.
In Times Square in Causeway Bay, a handful of counterprotesters holding a Chinese flag argued and scuffled briefly with anti-government protesters, pushing one woman to the ground, before officers arrived.
Ray Wong Cheuk-hei, 20, who works as a waiter in the area, also said he had no sympathy for the infected police officer.
“Any organisation who has attracted so much hate to the point that someone would take pleasure in its members getting a disease must surely reflect on its conduct,” he said.
“Some are popping champagne today because an officer was caught on camera … making the same mocking remarks when one of our protesters Chow Tsz-lok died,” he added.
Chow, a university student, died in a fall from a Tseung Kwan O car park near a police operation in November.
Lam Chi-wai, chairman of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, said the protesters’ “undignified and inhumane” remarks on Friday did not even warrant his condemnation.
“At this critical time in the city, we must all put our hands together and join forces to fight the epidemic. I will not dignify those comments with a reply.”