Hong Kong police have come under fire for allegedly targeting a major mosque in Tsim Sha Tsui with a water cannon truck. Members of the public assisted in a clean-up operation after blue dye from the crowd control truck stained the building’s steps on Nathan Road.
At around 4pm on Sunday, the entrance of the Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre – the city’s largest mosque – was doused with coloured liquid as officers attempted to clear the area of pro-democracy protesters heading north.
Several journalists, bystanders and Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam were hit by the blue stream – including Philip Khan, a local Muslim businessman who was a member of the chief executive election committee.
“I think the police [were] intentionally targeting us. There were no protesters around earlier,” he said. “Would they fire this kind of stuff at a government house?”
Khan told reporters that the incident was an insult to Islam, adding: “Don’t they know what religious respect means? Doesn’t the Basic Law say we have freedom of religion?”
Mohan Chugani, the former Chairman of Indian Association and member of NGO Unison, was also injured and sent to a hospital to have his injuries examined.
Members of the public came out to clean the front of the mosque by sweeping dye from its steps and wiping down its gates.
The Civil Human Rights Front – a coalition of pro-democracy groups – condemned the incident as an affront to the dignity of places of religious worship. It said that, according to news clips, there were too few people outside the building at the time to warrant the use of the water cannon truck.
“It is totally unnecessary to disperse the crowd by using water cannon. However, the police officers did not consider the circumstance as well as the dignity of the place of religious worship,” its statement read. “The use of water cannon caused injuries of citizens and damaged the Mosque. It demonstrates the police officers are abusing their power and force to insult place of religious worship, and thus put social harmony at risk.”
The Front also expressed regret over the “lack of common sense and insensitivity to religion,” calling on the police commission to deliver an apology to the religious community as well as Hong Kong society at large.
At around 8:30pm, the police released a statement saying the incident was “unintended” and “unfortunate.”
“Following the incident, the police… immediately contacted the Chief Imam as well as Muslim community leaders to clarify the situation and to show our concern,” its statement read.
The Police have all along maintained a good relationship with the Kowloon Mosque and the Muslim community in Hong Kong. The Police respect religious freedom in Hong Kong and will strive to protect all places of worship.
— Hong Kong Police Force (@hkpoliceforce) October 20, 2019
At roughly 9:40pm, police representatives went to the newly cleaned Kowloon Masjid in an attempt to explain Sunday afternoon’s blue dye incident.
Sunday saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets of Kowloon despite a police ban on a cancelled march – organised by the Front – against the government’s anti-mask law. The controversial measure was implemented two weeks ago using the 1922 Emergency Regulations Ordinance in response to large-scale protests, sparked by an ill-fated bill which would have enabled extraditions to China.
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