A group of 44 activists have been charged with rioting in the latest violent confrontation during eight weeks of protests.
On Wednesday morning, more than forty people appeared in a Hong Kong court. This is the first time that the authorities in the financial hub have resorted to using the rioting charge.
This could infuriate the activists who have been demanding that the government avoid using the term “riot” to refer to the demonstrations.
Those charged included 13 students, seven clerks, a pilot, teachers, nurses, workers and salesmen. All were released on bail and are due back in court on September 25.
Under Hong Kong law, rioting is defined as an unlawful assembly of three or more people where any person “commits a break of the peace”. The conviction can carry a 10-year prison sentence.
Presenter Méabh McMahon spoke to Euronews journalist Alasdair Sandford about what this type of charge means for those involved.
A wave of protests that began in late April have plunged the former British colony into its biggest political crisis since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.
Hundreds of protesters have surrounded a police station in Hong Kong demanding the release of what they call “the martyrs”.
Tuesday night’s protests were livestreamed by Hong Kong media and protesters chanted slogans and threw eggs at the Kwai Chung police station.
The police said in a statement the police facing riot charges had set up roadblocks, damaged street signs and attacked officers. Pepper spray was used to disperse the rioters.
Demonstrators are still demanding greater accountability from their government, and they show no signs of backing down. The protesters are vowing to keep up the pressure, insisting on democracy and human rights.
The main focus is on the now infamous extradition bill, wanting it to be fully withdrawn. Also, activists want the territory’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down.
A couple of weeks ago, Carrie Lam apologised for “not communicating properly” when the proposed bill was first released. She has admitted that her government’s work on the bill had been a “total failure” and that it was “dead”.
Over the weeks, clashes with the police have been sometimes violent, with tear gas and rubber bullets used by the authorities.
Among other demands, protesters are still wanting an independent investigation into police abuse.