Over 700 people have been arrested in connection with the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, and many of them are underage.
A 14-year-old female student, surnamed Chan, told local media that she was not even a protester but was arrested for merely passing near a police station at Tin Shui Wai on Aug. 5, according to NOW.
Chan said that she was on her way back to her school to buy textbooks when she was arrested along with one of her classmates. She said that police had suspected they were headed to take part in an unlawful assembly. After the rallies, protesters had occupied multiple districts in acts of civil disobedience against a local government that continued to avoid dialogue over the protesters’ demands.
Chan was then held at the police station for more than 10 hours, during which she and her classmates were forbidden from calling their family.
While being held, police demanded their passwords in order to unlock their cell phones.
Chan explained that neither she nor her classmate knew that they could reject the police’s request at the time, and that they had handed over their passwords.
After their release, police kept one of the phones for investigation, Chan told NOW.
Lawrence Lau, a Hong Kong lawyer, told NOW that those under arrest have the right to not unlock their phones for police, unless the information is suspected to risk causing immediate harm. As for contacting their families and lawyers, Lau explained that the police have no right to forbid people from making those calls, given that they don’t interfere with the police investigation.
Hong Kong police announced during a daily briefing on Aug. 15 that 748 people have been arrested in connection with the protests since June 9. Of these, 115 have been charged, police said.
June 9 was the first of many mass protests against the extradition bill in Hong Kong. Over 1 million people took to the streets, fearing that the city’s judicial autonomy would be undermined by a law that would allow anyone passing through Hong Kong to be extradited and trialed in China’s courts. Communist China is infamous for using its judicial system to silence critics and dissents, giving them long sentences.
Five individuals—four men and one woman aged between 20 and 22—were among the most recent arrests. They are suspected of removing a Chinese national flag from outside Harbour City shopping centre on Aug. 3 and throwing it into the city’s iconic Victoria Harbour, according to media reports.
Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, its mini-constitution, a person found guilty of publicly desecrating the national flag by methods such as burning and damaging it could be sentenced to up to 3 years in prison.
About 120,000 protesters had marched through Mong Kok on Aug. 3 before many dispersed into different parts of Kowloon, with some setting up roadblocks. After an evening of intense clashes with protesters, police announced that it had arrested at least 20 people for offenses such as unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, and assault.