Since June, 1596 protesters have been arrested. Police said 38 per cent of all protesters arrested in September were school and university students, which correlated with the resumption of classes on September 1.
“At peak, we put as many as 75 arrested people temporarily in the centre,” chief superintendent of the police public relations branch John Tse said. “However, we fully understand the public concern about using this facility.
“We will stop using San Uk Ling Holding Centre for holding arrested people in this operation. The reason is to avoid any further public speculation and unnecessary remarks accusing the police.”
He conceded that the remote location of San Uk Ling caused delays in protesters accessing lawyers and medical treatment, adding that two formal complaints about the treatment of protesters in the centre had been received.
According to Amnesty International, several protesters in San Uk Ling were told by police they could not contact a lawyer because there was no phone network available.
A protester told Friday’s rally that one person detained at the facility was blindfolded, tied to a table and held for 30 hours without a lawyer before being taken to court.
No one knows what happened inside San Uk Ling. I can’t bear to see how the young people are treated.
Winston, a 38-year-old protester
Ventus Lau, the organiser of a protest march who was arrested by police and sent to San Uk Ling, said there was no CCTV at the detention centre.
Among the thousands of Hong Kongers who rallied on Friday night many were dressed in office shirts and business heels. They didn’t look like conspiracy theorists.
Office worker Winston, 38, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that abuse of young protesters by police, and the rumours about San Uk Ling, was the issue above all others that concerned him.
“No one knows what happened inside San Uk Ling. I can’t bear to see how the young people are treated,” he said.
Winston was educated in Australia, studing at Monash University in Melbourne. He said he returned to Hong Kong because he loves his home.
“The young people now are strong and do what we cannot. They are the role models for Hong Kong,” he said.
Cici, 40, in a silk dress and heels, listened as a video of protesters who had been inside San Uk Ling was shown. A female protester in a mask said she had seen young men inside the facility covered in blood. “It is hopeless,” said Cici.
“We have heard about fatalities. You realise something is wrong when the government says they will shut it. We don’t trust the police.”
Thirty-something Jen said the “latest conspiracy theory” was there was a fire at San Uk Ling this week as police were trying to destroy evidence. “We have lost trust with police which is why we believe the rumours,” she said.
Lam said she won’t approve an independent commission into allegations of police brutality – a key demand of the protest movement – and instead wants an existing police oversight board to handle an investigation into police actions.
A 13 year old arrested on Saturday for desecrating the Chinese national flag faces three years jail, they said. School-aged students had been arrested each day this week.
The barrister representing a 15-year-old removed from her family by police and put under a protection order has challenged police allegations she was carrying a mask and laser pen when arrested, and argues she had a flashlight in her bag and her mother wants her back.
A magistrate on Friday refused police protection orders for the 15-year-old girl, plus another two children aged 15 and 13 removed from their families after being arrested by police on August 29. The three children will be returned home.
Their lawyer told media later that police had sought to use protection orders to deter children from protesting.
A large protest was expected on Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Movement.
Kirsty Needham is China Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.