Tue, Aug 13, 2019 - Page 5 News List

HONG KONG PROTESTS: Brutal police tactics spark outcry

AGENTS PROVOCATEUR:Footage showing helmeted protesters suddenly making arrests and police firing projectiles from point-blank range caused outrage

The Guardian and AFP, HONG KONG

Men believed to be police officers dressed as protesters detain demonstrators on Hennessy Road during a protest in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on Sunday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong police yesterday unveiled water cannon trucks as a new way to combat pro-democracy protesters as rights groups and democracy advocates accused police of excessive force after police fired tear gas into a subway station and posed as yellow-helmeted protesters before making arrests during an intense weekend of clashes.

The brand-new vehicles, complete with real-time surveillance cameras and multiple spray nozzles, were wheeled out after police clashed with demonstrators at nearly a dozen locations on Sunday.

Forty-five people were injured in the clashes, including two who were in serious condition, a government official said.

“Clashes between protesters and police over the weekend escalated to another level, especially on the police side,” Amnesty International Hong Kong director Man-kei Tam (譚萬基) said.

Tam cited video footage of police firing tear gas into the subway station on Sunday night that appeared empty of protesters, as well as another incident of police firing projectiles at close range as protesters attempted to flee down a separate subway station escalator.

Tam questioned the need for such force in both cases, as protesters appeared to be showing “no aggression” toward officers.

“These are all very ugly things,” he said.

Civil Rights Observer, a local rights group that sends observers to protests, has “very serious concerns” about police violence and has seen “very clear evidence to show the police are violating their guidelines,” spokesman Icarus Wong (王浩賢) said.

The group was particularly concerned by the use of undercover officers for the first time, who later turned on protesters on Sunday night, Wong said.

He said it was unclear if they might have acted as agitators before making mass arrests.

Outrage against police violence quickly spread online. Many residents also shared videos and photographs of police violence on Twitter, in some cases under hashtags like #AbolishHKPF and #HKPoliceState, as well in Telegram protest groups.

One widely shared photo was an image of a female protester hit by a police projectile and bleeding profusely from her eye.

Journalists were also attacked by mobs of residents believed to be pro-China supporters in one district on Hong Kong Island.

“Violence against journalists, whether it comes from the police or pro-Beijing mobs, has become systematic and clearly aims to discourage the media from covering the protests in Hong Kong,” said Cedric Alviani, head of the Reporters Without Borders East Asia bureau in Taipei.

Police yesterday demonstrated jets of water from the trucks on several dummy torsos placed at different distances from the vehicles.

Hong Kong has reportedly ordered three of the vehicles at a cost of HK$27 million (US$3.4 million).

Police would only use the trucks in the event of a “large-scale public disturbance” leading to “casualties, property being destroyed wantonly, or public order and public safety coming under grave threat,” Hong Police Senior Superintendent Chan Kin-kwok (陳健國) told lawmakers at the presentation.

Pro-democracy lawmakers at the presentation held signs that read “HK Police Murderers” and quarreled with pro-Beijing lawmakers, who praised the police for their response to the demonstrations.

“We saw recently that the police’s control of their emotions is extremely poor,” said Democratic Party Legislator Lam Cheuk-ting (林卓廷), who accused police of having “abused their power to attack many protesters who aren’t resisting.”

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