The government has said three water cannon vehicles, costing HK$27 million, will be transported to Hong Kong in the first half of this year.

Undersecretary for Security Sonny Au said at the Legislative Council on Thursday that the vehicles are expected to be in service by the end of 2018. He also said the models are able to disperse coloured liquids to identify people causing offences, as well as shoot a pepper-based solution.

“The police have made preparations for using the vehicles. They will form strict guidelines. All operators must receive relevant driving, operation and safety training beforehand, and follow the guidelines,” he said. He added that the guidelines will be similar to general principles for using force, but did not reveal details.

Water cannon vehicle specifications. Photo: GovHK.

Au said the vehicles will only be used by the force as a necessary part of completing lawful duties.

He made the remarks as the legislature was debating a motion to summon the police commissioner to testify about the force of the vehicles and the guidelines and precautions governing their use.

The motion raised by pro-democracy lawmaker Kenneth Leung was rejected by the pro-Beijing camp. During the debate, Leung said there had been cases overseas in which protesters were blinded or even killed by water cannons.

Leung said Hong Kong’s streets are narrow and using water cannons may cause serious injuries.

“The public has the right to know the guidelines to assess the risk of participating in protests in the future,” he said. “It also protects the police.”

Kenneth Leung. File Photo: Kenneth Leung, via Facebook.

Secretary for Security John Lee said police will give warnings before using the vehicles to combat illegal actions during riots or at mass public gatherings.

Lee said the police will conduct a series of tests when the vehicles arrive and will plan to create guidelines and training, but refused to reveal the details.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho said that “it is better to use water cannon vehicles than gun cannon vehicles.”

“Or should they use machine guns?” he said, adding that Hong Kong was lacking behind Western countries for 40 years in introducing water cannons.

Junius Ho. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Responding to the democrats’ demands to reveal the power of the water cannons, Ho said: “It must be stronger than the jacuzzi at your home.”

He also said the vehicles should also be able to dispense soap: “So that they can wash themselves before going home.”

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.