(CNN) — Police in Hong Kong have come under heavy criticism after a widely-circulated video showed officers tackling a 12-year-old girl to the ground during a pro-democracy protest.
The video, posted by the student media group of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), showed the girl walking along a sidewalk when riot police officers stopped her. The girl started running away before the police chased after her and tackled her to the ground.
In a statement, the force defended its officers’ actions, saying they had deployed “minimum necessary force” in the situation. It said protesters, including the girl, had been intercepted for a stop and search.
“During the interaction, she suddenly ran away in a suspicious manner,” it said. “Officers, therefore, chased and subdued her with the use of minimum necessary force.”
Police said the girl had violated the city’s ban on gatherings of more than two people, and added that she was issued a penalty ticket with a fine of $2,000 Hong Kong dollars ($258).
Nearly 300 protesters were arrested on Sunday, according to the police, during one of the largest pro-democracy demonstrations since China imposed a national security law in June.
Hong Kongers were originally scheduled to go to the polls on Sunday, but in July the city’s leader postponed legislative elections for a year, citing public health concerns.
Some pro-democracy activists, who had been aiming to win a majority in the city’s Legislative Council, accused the government of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse — for fear that pro-government parties could do badly in the vote.
Hong Kong has been in political turmoil since June 2019, when anti-government protests broke out in the city, initially spurred by a controversial extradition bill that was eventually shelved.
Since then, the demonstrations have evolved into a broader protest movement against the city’s pro-Beijing government, the Chinese central government, and the police force, which many accuse of excessive force.
Police have consistently argued that their tactics are the result of protesters’ violence and disruption, and have strenuously denied wrongdoing and accusations of brutality.