Perhaps as a last-ditch effort, the Hong Kong administration authorised, for the first time, the use of water cannons to disperse the protesters who took over the streets of the city. The police force also used tear gas after hoisting warning flags.
Water cannons have never been used until now in years of anti-government protests.
Amnesty International (AI) has described water cannons as “powerful weapons that are non-discriminating in nature and can cause serious injury or even death”.
CheckNews reported that the water cannons used were purchased in 2018 from Sides, a French company.
The report also stated that Frédéric Louis, the CEO of Armoric Holding – Sides’ parent company – confirmed that he had sent three anti-riot vehicles with water launchers to the former British colony.
The Hong Kong police force stressed that they wanted to use water cannons only in case of a large-scale disruption of public order and issued the following statement:
“Extremely violent demonstrators have deviated from the initial route, obstructing roads, vandalizing shops and tunnels, throwing petrol bombs, bricks and various projectiles at the police.”
The rallyists, many of whom were wearing gas masks, responded by throwing bricks, sticks and gasoline bombs toward the police.
Many demonstrators set up roadblocks, dug up bricks from the pavement and wheeled them away to use as weapons, while others sprayed the roads with detergent to make it slippery for the police lines.
Prior to the clash, thousands of protesters marched in the rain toward Tsuen Wan Park, the endpoint of the rally, chanting, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
Demonstrators have taken to the streets for more than two months. Protests were prompted by a proposed bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. Although Carrie Lam already stated that the bill is “dead”, her refusal to withdraw it continues to fuel protests.
The ongoing demonstrations have evolved, and protesters now demand for democratic elections and an investigation into police excessive use of force to clear rallies.