Cops defend move after tear gas fired at 'ghost' streets

Top News | Cindy Wan 16 Aug 2019

Police defended their decision to deploy tear gas in narrow streets when most protesters who were besieging the Sham Shui Po police station had already gone.

Tear gas grenades were fired to densely populated narrow streets -including Apliu, Fuk Wing and Ki Lung streets - although there were barely any protesters left.

This prompted web users to create memes and jokes about police "dispersing invisible ghosts at the Ghost Festival."

The protesters, who numbered 700 at the peak, had organized a religious activity on Ghost Festival on Wednesday night to burn offerings for protesters who had committed suicide.

Police dispersed the crowd at 9.45pm, saying some radical protesters had attacked the police station with slingshots, marbles and laser beams.

A woman who lives on Pei Ho Street, said the tear gas blew into her flat and affected her six-month old baby, even though the windows were tightly closed.

"The protesters were not the problem. The police's way of handling is problematic," she said.

Police district commander in Sham Shui Po, Tong Ho Kai-hin, said deploying tear gas was "the last option" for crowd dispersion, as the commander at the scene had decided the longer the protesters stayed on the streets, the more dangerous the situation would become.

This is because the protesters would have time to dig up bricks and uproot fences on the road, Tong said.

The commander deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd and prevent greater risk, he said.

On why tear gas grenades were thrown to empty streets, Ho said the commander must have spotted threats in the front.

He appealed to citizens to understand police's difficulties in operation, saying the officers had broadcast reminders using mobile speakers.

Tong denied a policeman had used a speaker to insult citizens with foul language calling them "ridiculous protesters."

"The officer chose the wordings he believed would help the communication," he said. Apart from Sham Shui Po, the police stations in Tai Po and Tin Shui Wai were also surrounded by hundreds of people on Wednesday night.

Fifteen men and two women, aged 15 to 61, were arrested for participating in an unlawful assembly, criminal damage, conspiracy to insult the national flag, arson, and possession of weapons.

Police deployed 35 tear gas grenades and one shot of rubber bullet in the clearance actions on Wednesday.

A total of 748 people has been arrested, with 177 police officers injured in the civil movement since June 9.

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