Hong Kong protest video shows apparent beating of detained activist Ken Tsang as police arrest 45 to break up demonstrations

Officers shown in footage on local TV seemed to punch, kick and hit the social worker, leaving him with bruising on his face and body

Video footage showing the apparent beating of a defenceless protester outside a government building in Hong Kong has led human rights activists, politicians and movement leaders to condemn the police’s most brutal crackdown for a week.

At least 45 people were arrested today as officers resorted to brute force to clear a main road in the Chinese-run city, with barricades, banners and tents torn down and removed.

But in an incident which is likely to prove a flashpoint for clashes in weeks to come, local TV cameras caught a large group of plainclothes officers dragging one protester around the back of a government office block where, presumably believing they were out of sight, the policemen appeared to punch, kick, and beat the man with a baton.

The leader of the pro-democracy Civic Party, Alan Leong, identified the person in the video as the seasoned protester Ken Tsang, a member of the party and volunteer social worker who specialises in projects for street children.

Police have confirmed they are investigating an incident of suspected use of excessive force. Hong Kong Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told a press conference the officers shown in the video had been suspended, and a statement said that a received complaint would be “handled in accordance with the established procedures and in a just and impartial manner”.

Lawyers representing Mr Tsang said police also beat him once he was inside a police station, and that he has since been taken to hospital.

The Civic Party later released photographs showing bruising to Mr Tsang’s face and body, sparking renewed anger among protesters, and the human rights group Amnesty International called for the police involved in the apparent “vicious attack against a detained man” to face justice.

ken-tsang-2-hk.jpgSpeaking to the South China Morning Post, student protesters who remained at the barricades said the police’s public image had deteriorated sharply since the civil unrest began – never more so than now.

"How could they take him into a corner and beat him up?” asked Kit Law, a 20-year-old student of engineering at Chinese University.  “The police are just like thugs.

“But it just made me more determined to come out. I am not intimidated.”

Police forces arrest pro-democracy protesters outside the central government offices in Hong Kong

William Yu, another 20-year-old, said: “I have long felt that the police are not politically neutral. When there were quarrels between people pro- and anti-Occupy, the police would form a human chain. But the thing is, why did the police not arrest those who beat up the Occupy protesters?”

Meanwhile, police referred to the wider operation to break up protests today, which included the use of pepper spray, as being carried out with “minimum force”.

The operation was the toughest against largely student protesters in more than a week, and came just hours after demonstrators swarmed into a tunnel on a four-lane thoroughfare on Tuesday, halting traffic and chanting for universal suffrage.

The protesters want China’s government to drop plans for a pro-Beijing committee to screen candidates in the elections. They also demand that Hong Kong’s deeply unpopular Beijing-backed leader, Mr Leung, resign. But Mr Leung has said there is “almost zero chance” that China’s government will change its rules for the 2017 election.

Organisers say as many as 200,000 people thronged the streets at the peak of the protests. Numbers have since dwindled and the remaining demonstrators, sensing that the earlier actions were aimed at testing their defences, have braced for possible further police moves to clear out their protest camps.

Beijing is eager to end the protests to avoid emboldening activists and others on the mainland seen as a threat to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.