Hong Kong police unveil water cannon trucks after new protests

Monday August 12, 2019

 

Hong Kong police on Monday unveiled water cannon trucks as a new way to combat pro-democracy protesters, after tear gas and rubber bullets failed to stop more than two months of rallies.


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.


They fired tear gas on shopping streets and in subway stations, with protesters hurling bricks and spraying riot police with fire extinguishers and water hoses.


A government official said 45 people were injured in the clashes, including two who were in serious condition.


Among them was a woman who suffered a serious face injury, reportedly after being hit by a bean bag round.


Images of her lying on the ground with blood pouring from her face quickly went viral and featured on posters calling for new demonstrations.


"An eye for an eye" read one call for a protest on Monday afternoon at the city's airport.


Police also arrested protesters across the city, with activists claiming plainclothes officers dressed in the movement's signature black and infiltrated their ranks to detain demonstrators.


Police have defended themselves as accusations of using excessive force against protesters and on Monday unveiled two water cannons -- a method that has not yet been used during the crisis.


They 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 ($3.4 million), though police declined to confirm the exact price-tag.


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", senior superintendent Chan Kin-kwok told lawmakers.


The vehicles are "one of our options for our use of force or special tactics," he added during the Monday presentation.


Pro-democracy lawmakers attended the presentation holding signs that read "HK Police Murderers" and quarrelled 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 Lam Cheuk-ting, who accused police of having "abused their power to attack many protesters who aren't resisting".

It was the tenth consecutive weekend that protesters have taken to the streets in a movement that began over opposition to a bill allowing extradition to mainland China.


The protests have morphed into a broader bid to reverse a slide of democratic freedoms in the southern Chinese city.


They have been seen as the biggest threat to Beijing's rule since Britain handed Hong Kong over in 1997.