Activists are warning protesters in Hong Kong to avoid public hospitals because police might be camped out there waiting to make arrests

  • Protesters in Hong Kong are being told to avoid public hospitals over fears of arrests by police, who activists warn may be stationed outside medical buildings.
  • Eighty-one people injured during the protests were sent to public hospitals, according to Hong Kong’s information bureau. Eleven people have been arrested in connection to the riots as of Thursday evening.
  • Two Hong Kong-based human rights advocates, who requested anonymity, told INSIDER that messages – purportedly from legal aids – were circulating around private forums and social media groups cautioning injured protesters from consenting to having their medical information shared with the police.
  • People are also being warned to avoid public hospitals as police could be stationed there “ready to make arrests,” the message said.
  • According to the South China Morning Post, four people were arrested at public hospitals after they confirmed their involvement in the protests to hospital staff.
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Activists are urging protesters in Hong Kong to avoid public hospitals over fears of arrests by police who activists say may be stationed outside medical buildings.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets beginning on Sunday in one of the largest demonstrations the country has seen in years. Protests continued into the week, coming to a head on Wednesday ahead of a scheduled debate on a controversial bill which would allow for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China. The debate was eventually postponed as protesters crowded the streets leading to the city’s Legislative Council.

Two Hong Kong-based human rights advocates, who requested anonymity, told INSIDER that messages – purportedly from legal aids – were circulating around private forums and social media groups cautioning injured protesters from consenting to having their medical information shared with the police. INSIDER was sent a copy of the message, but could not independently verify its origin.

“Remember to ‘decline’ the police request for a copy of the medical report,” a message in English and Chinese obtained by INSIDER over WhatsApp read.

People are also being warned to avoid public hospitals as police could be stationed there “ready to make arrests,” the message read.

INSIDER contacted the Hong Kong Hospital Authority for comment.

This week’s protests turned violent – police formed a human barricade and fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and beanbag rounds into swarms of people gathered in the central business district. Several protesters were also pepper sprayed and blasted with high-pressure water hoses.

According to the South China Morning Post, riot police shot more tear gas rounds on Wednesday than were fired off during the 2014 Occupy Central demonstrations, the last protests of this size in Hong Kong, which called for fully democratic elections.

Police say they were left with “no choice” but to use force against protesters who allegedly charged at police and hurled bricks, metal poles, planks, and barriers at officers stationed at the front lines.

Eighty-one people injured during the protests were sent to public hospitals, according to Hong Kong’s information bureau. As of Thursday evening, 11 people were arrested for “disorderly conduct in public place, unlawful assembly, assaulting police officers and other riot-related offences,” police said in a statement.

Read more: Police fire tear gas, rubber bullets as protesters rally in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill that would give China more power over the territory

Some have already been arrested at public hospitals

On Thursday, reports emerged that at least four people were arrested at public hospitals after sustaining injuries from the protests.

A school teacher with an injury above his right eye, along with two others, were arrested at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei after telling medical staff they had participated in the protest, a law enforcement source told the South China Morning Post. A fourth person was arrested in nearby Kwong Wah Hospital, the source said.

According to SCMP, hospital staff notified police of patients identified as protesters. A City University student told SCMP that he was arrested at Queen Elizabeth Hospital while he was collecting medicine there. “I was suspected from the minute we paid the bill, because of what we were wearing, casual all-black sportswear,” he told SCMP. He added that police officers were standing nearby attempting to eavesdrop on his conversation with hospital staff about how he obtained his injury.

“The four were being held for questioning on Thursday afternoon and were likely to be released on bail,” SCMP wrote, citing a source.

INSIDER contacted Hong Kong Police Force for comment.

Rioting is considered a serious offense under Hong Kong law and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Timothy Loo, a human rights advocate based in Hong Kong, who participated in the protests, told INSIDER that people are concerned about being tied to the demonstrations and are concealing their identities when possible.

“The police have unfairly accused people of rioting, being arrested under this circumstance carries heavier sentences. We’re already seeing the police cracking down – they’ve taken students from university dorm rooms and injured patients from hospitals,” Loo said of the recent protests. “I think people are trying to be very cautious this time around.”