Four people who were struck by a police water cannon truck while they were protecting Kowloon mosque on Sunday have filed official complaints to the force.
At around 4pm, the entrance of the Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre – the city’s largest mosque – was doused with blue liquid as officers attempted to clear the area of protesters heading north. The liquid hit people who were gathered outside the mosque to protect it amid rumours that some people may damage the Islamic house of worship.
Protesters marched from Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday against the emergency anti-mask law as police deployed tear gas and water cannon trucks.
On Tuesday, four victims went to the police headquarters in Wan Chai to file complaints. They included the executive director of NGO Hong Kong Unison Phyllis Cheung, Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam, former chairman of the Indian Association Mohan Chugani, and businessman Philip Khan, a member of the chief executive election committee.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo apologised at the mosque in person. Lam and Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Tang also called Chugani to apologise.
“The reason I have come here today is just to set the record straight because the official press release, as I understand, is that there were… protesters and rioters in front of the mosque, which is not true,” Chugani said. “I accept the apologies in principle, but I would like them to correct and amend the record. I should not be labelled as a protester or a rioter. I am just a civilian.”
The police statement on Monday stated that it deployed the water cannon truck “to disperse the rioters in the vicinity of Nathan Road.”
“During the operation, coloured water was accidentally sprayed at the Kowloon Mosque,” it said.
Lawmaker Tam said he was shocked that the truck’s crew attacked them right after a warning was given. Tam said the government apologised to the mosque and to Chugani, but not to other victims.
Tam said the use of the water cannon on Sunday did not fulfil the usual conditions as no violence was being used against people or buildings on the scene: “We did not do anything. We did not chant any slogan. We did not have any weapons. We did not wear masks or protective equipment. We were standing on the pavement,” he said.
“If we were endangering [public order], then we should have been arrested or dispersed, and [the police] should not leave after firing at us and the mosque,” he added.
Cheung said the police did not follow their own guidelines in using the water cannon.
“Have they been trained? The water cannon trucks have been used several times, and innocent reporters have been hit as well,” she said.
Chugani said Deputy Commissioner Tang told him that the driver controlling the water cannon truck was “not very experienced.”
“I told Chris that this is totally not acceptable. If you are going to drive a vehicle like that, the officer inside aiming and shooting should be an extremely experienced officer before he can do that. I saw him stop, take aim, and then fire, twice,” he said.
Posted by 呂秉權 on Sunday, 20 October 2019
“He said he’s going to stringently look into the matter and there will be changes,” Chugani said. “I expect them to have more experienced officers in the future. Maybe this is the lesson well learned.”
Chugani also said that after he was shot, his doctor at the Baptist Hospital told him not to come for treatment because the chemicals in the blue liquid were unknown. He told Carrie Lam what the doctor said and Lam said she will take care of it, Chugani said.
Khan said the government should apologise to everyone who was at the scene on Sunday.
“But I understand this: Carrie Lam or the police would not apologise to private citizens who are not important,” he said.
Hong Kong Free Press relies on direct reader support. Help safeguard independent journalism and press freedom as we invest more in freelancers, overtime, safety gear & insurance during this summer’s protests. 10 ways to support us.