HONG KONG — Two Hong Kong police officers were arrested on Tuesday after a video appeared to show them hitting a 62-year-old man in the genitals, stomach and face while he was strapped to a gurney in a hospital in June.
The man was not a participant in the protests this summer that have often ended in violent showdowns with the police. A pro-democracy lawmaker who released the footage, Lam Cheuk-ting, said the man had been accused of attacking a police officer while drunk.
But protesters and their supporters tied the episode to one of their central grievances: that the Hong Kong police have used brutal tactics.
“These few months, so many protesters have been arrested by the police,” Mr. Lam said at a news conference on Tuesday, next to two of the man’s sons. “Among them, how many must have been subjected to similar or even more severe abuse? Any sensible person would raise this question.”
John Tse, a police spokesman, said at a news conference later Tuesday that the officers had been arrested on suspicion of assault.
“We absolutely do not tolerate it if officers break the law while knowing the law,” he said.
The video, filmed on a security camera at North District Hospital on June 26, showed the man with his limbs bound to a gurney in a small room, with two uniformed police officers standing over him. Another man, whom Mr. Lam identified as a plainclothes officer, is also present for part of the video.
Within 10 seconds of the uniformed officers’ arrival in the room, one of them slaps the man in the face. Over the next 21 minutes, they can be seen repeatedly using their batons, fists and open hands to beat the man.
Mr. Lam said the man was intoxicated at the time. Photos taken later showed the man with bruises and cuts in multiple places.
One of the man’s sons filed a complaint after the incident. The police said on Tuesday that they began investigating the allegation then, but made little progress. They said they did not ask the hospital for its security-camera footage because they were unaware that there had been a camera in the room.
The protests in Hong Kong, initially focused on legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, expanded to include accusations of police brutality after the police began using batons, pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds. Nearly 2,000 tear gas canisters have been used in just over two months — including canisters fired inside a subway station and from a window of a skyscraper — and arrests have occasionally been bloody.
Several independent, international groups — including the United Nations human rights office, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — have accused the police of excessive force and repeatedly failing to follow safety standards for the use of weapons like tear gas and bean bag rounds. They have echoed protesters’ calls for an independent investigation into the police’s conduct.
Officers say they have acted with restraint against the protesters, some of whom have thrown bricks, Molotov cocktails and other projectiles at officers. The government has said that an investigation currently being carried out by a police watchdog group is adequate, but critics say the group is stacked with pro-government figures.
Besides confrontations between protesters and the police, the simmering political crisis has led to other outbreaks of violence and fears of retribution against protest supporters.
Early Tuesday, a man stabbed two women and a man in the city’s Tseung Kwan O neighborhood after asking about their views of the protests, according to The South China Morning Post.
A man was arrested in connection with the attacks while trying to enter mainland China, the police said. Two of the victims were still hospitalized as of Tuesday morning.