Image Credit: Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Petrol bombs flung at Hong Kong police club

Petrol bombs were hurled at a Hong Kong police recreation club in the early hours of Tuesday, a rare attack on a police facility since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law.

Police said they received a report of three men dressed in black hurling Molotov cocktails into the car park of the Police Sports and Recreation Club in Mongkok, a district that saw many clashes during last year’s huge democracy protests.

Local media images showed the front of a truck was burned out but no further damage.

An 18-year-old man was later arrested a short walk away from the club carrying pepper spray, police said, although it was not clear if he was a suspect.

Hong Kong was convulsed by seven straight months of huge and often violent rallies last year calling for democracy and greater police accountability.

Riot police fired thousands of rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds — as well as some live rounds.

Groups of militant protesters resorted to rocks and petrol bombs with police stations often targeted.

Mass arrests and the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic dampened the protests at the start of the year.

Beijing then ramped up a crackdown, including the imposition of a security law that outlaws calls for greater autonomy or independence.

Attacks on police are now classified as terrorism and are punishable by sentences of 10 years to life in prison.

The first person charged under the new law was a man who allegedly drove a motorbike into police while flying an independence flag. He is being prosecuted for two new security crimes: secession and terrorism.

Most of those arrested under the new law are being investigated or prosecuted for things they have said, not violent crimes.

Beijing says the law has restored stability.

Critics, including many Western powers, say it has eviscerated the freedoms and autonomy China promised Hong Kong could keep after its handover from colonial ruler Britain in 1997.

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