August 27, 2019
HONG KONG: Police on Monday said they were forced to fire water cannon and a warning shot to fend off “extremely violent” demonstrators, as months of pro-democracy protests veer deeper into violence.
Sunday’s clashes in the suburb of Tsuen Wan were some of the worst in 12 weeks of political unrest that rocked the city.
As night fell, a group of officers were cornered by protesters armed with bricks and other weapons, Hong Kong police said in a statement.
An officer fell to the ground under a barrage of blows and, “facing threats to life,” six policemen drew their sidearms, while one “fired a warning shot into the sky,” it said.
It is believed to be the first live round fired by an officer during the crisis.
Fifteen officers were injured during the clashes, the statement said, while dozens of protesters were arrested — including a 12-year-old — for unlawful assembly, possession of weapons and assaulting police.
“Police appeal to members of the public to make a clean break with violent protestors,” the statement added, vowing “relentless action” to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The firing of a live round prodded an angry response from social media users, who mocked a police spokesman who had praised the “valiant and restrained” actions of riot cops on Sunday.
“If the police can’t control their emotion, how can they be valiant and restrained?” a Facebook user commented.
Earlier Sunday, after thousands of people marched peacefully in pouring rain, a group of hardcore protesters erected makeshift roadblocks and threw bricks and Molotov cocktails at riot police.
After firing tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds, police drove water cannon vehicles onto the streets for the first time during the protests, unfurling signs warning demonstrators they would deploy the jets if they did not leave.
The jets were later fired down from the moving trucks down a road towards a crowd of protesters who ran away.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Police had previously said the vehicles, complete with surveillance cameras and multiple spray nozzles, would only be used in the event of a “large-scale public disturbance.”
The city’s officers are often the focus of protesters’ anger because of their perceived heavy handling of the rallies.
Ten people were left in hospital after Saturday’s clashes — two in a serious condition — staff said, without detailing if they were police or protesters.
Protesters say Hong Kong’s unique freedoms are in jeopardy as Beijing tightens its political chokehold on the semi-autonomous city.
The city had appeared to have pulled back from a sharp nosedive into violence, with the last serious confrontation taking place more than a week ago, shortly after protests paralyzed the airport.
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