A total of 157 people have been arrested over the weekend for illegal and violent acts, the Hong Kong police said on Monday, warning that violence may escalate in the near future and the rioters' acts are "one step closer to terrorism."
"As Hong Kong entered its 17th week of social unrest and widespread violence, with mass property destruction, fierce street fires, indiscriminate attacks on innocent citizens and petrol bombs, rioters have wrecked havoc across the city," said Tse Chun-chung, chief superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB).
"We are on the verge of extreme danger," Tse said, noting "alarming observations" ahead of the Chinese National Day on Oct. 1.
According to Tse, the police have gotten intelligence suggesting some hard-core violent protesters are inciting others, including those with suicide tendencies, to commit extreme acts like murdering police officers, disguising as police officers to kill others, setting fires in petrol stations, etc.
"With the increasing intensity and extensity of violence over the past three months, there are apparent signs that violence by hard-core rioters will escalate in the near future," he said, adding that "all the acts are one step closer to terrorism."
Police have made preparations to face whatever will happen and are confident that any incident will be well dealt with, he said.
Over the weekend, rioters went on the rampage in different parts of Hong Kong, with as many as 100 petrol bombs thrown in just two days and many innocent citizens indiscriminately attacked, Tse said, expressing "the strongest condemnation" against all the criminal and violent acts.
On Saturday, 11 people, aged between 16 and 63, were arrested over offences such as criminal damage and common assault. On Sunday, 146 people, aged between 12 and 53, were arrested over offenses including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons and disorderly conduct in public place, according to Kong Wing-cheung, senior superintendent of the PPRB.
Out of the 157 arrested people, 67 were students. Most of them were arrested for unlawful assembly, and eight were only aged between 12 and 15, Kong said.
"Again we are very worried about the trend of more youngsters committing crimes. This will have detrimental impact on their future," Tse said.
"I believe most Hong Kong people would not have imagined this prolonged social unrest and widespread violence could have crippled our city for the 17th week," Tse said, stressing that "it's high time to hault all forms of violence" and appealing to the public to "stand together to stamp out violence right now."