Hong Kong police battling activists for control of an underpass sparked public anger today after local TV showed officers kicking a handcuffed protester; it's unclear what provoked the attack, but other video showed the protester splashing water on officers beforehand. Officers armed with riot shields, batons, and pepper spray knocked activists to the ground, dragging dozens away, and tore down barricades protesters used as roadblocks around the underpass outside government headquarters. "Hong Kong police have gone insane today, carrying out their own punishment in private," said pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan. "Hong Kong's values and its rule of law really have been completely destroyed by police chiefs." Protesters are arguing for greater democracy.
A police spokesman said seven officers involved have been temporarily reassigned and that authorities will investigate. He said five officers were injured and 45 protesters were arrested—none of whom were injured. Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, who described protests as "out of control," said officials are willing to talk to protesters, but reiterated that Beijing will not drop the election restrictions it imposed. The beaten protester was identified as Ken Tsang, a member of a pro-democracy political party. Tsang, through his lawyer, alleged that officers also slapped him at a police station. Activists circulated photos of bruises on his face and back. Today's raid was the most violent so far, with police charging protesters and dragging them away. "Now there is a feeling we are not just here to fool around or just to sit peacefully," says a student protester. "We are feeling more prepared." (Read more Hong Kong stories.)