As protesters occupied main roads for several hours on Wednesday in opposition to the controversial extradition bill, police took unprecedented action to clear them from around government headquarters.
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said “low fatality weapons” were used to clear the protests because demonstrators charged police lines throwing objects at officers.
During the clearance operation, 150 tear gas canisters, “several” rounds of rubber bullets, and 20 beanbag shots were fired towards demonstrators. In comparison, 87 rounds of tear gas canisters were used during the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.
The pro-democracy camp has condemned the level of force used against demonstrators, with Democratic Party Chair Wu Chi-wai saying the response by the authorities was not proportional. On Sunday, many attending a mass protest against the bill held placards condemning the police action, whilst others held photographs of protesers injured last Wednesday.
"Do not shoot – we are Hongkongers."#HongKong protesters are carrying parodies of the police warning banners, which are usually displayed before tear gas or pepper spray is deployed.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 16, 2019
Last week, Lo insisted that police officers were “very restrained,” calling Wednesday’s unrest “a riot.” The characterisation – echoed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, – could mean that participants may face up to a decade behind bars, though Lo appeared to back down this Monday by suggesting only violent protesters would face rioting charges.
Lo has not directly answered questions over reports of protesters apparently being shot in the head with rubber bullets, though he said people should report such incidents to the police if necessary.
Journalists also complained about their treatment by police, with numerous cases gathered by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, including ear gas canisters being shot at reporters at close range and reporters being harmed by batons.
Hongkongers have been sharing clips of the unrest, as discussion rages among both pro-democracy and pro-Beijing online communities about the police and protesters’ actions. HKFP has sought to verify the videos below, though it is not possible to completely guarantee the veracity of each clip.
In a Now TV video clip showing the beginning of the clashes on Wednesday, umbrellas, helmets and water bottles are seen among the items being thrown at police. Following that, beanbag rounds were used by officers, before tear gas canisters were deployed outside the legislature’s demonstration area:
Another Now TV clip shows beanbag rounds being shot at protesters:
Two dramatic YouTube clips show tear gas canisters being fired at protesters around Admiralty:
In one viral clip, a tear gas canister was fired towards reporters taking pictures, despite there being no protesters around them. However, the canister did not go off and a police officer had to retrieve it:
One video which is sparking wide debate online shows panicked scenes, as protesters flee to Citic Tower as the tear gas is unleashed:
Nearby, other footage shows the Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai repeatedly shouting “who is your commander?” at the police frontlines, as a tear gas cannister goes off near to him.
During the chaotic scenes outside the legislature, police officers took some protesters into a room within the complex. Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok argued with police and Legislative Council security guards, insisting that the room could not be used to detain protesters who had not yet been put under arrest:
Another clip shows a protester apparently being shot in the head with a police projectile on Harcourt Road:
In a more graphic video, one protester appears to have sustained a head injury as he coughs up blood:
As police officers charged into a lone protester on Harcourt Road in Admiralty, they are seen using batons and kicking the protester in the clips below. They also appear to block reporters from filming:
An injured, possibly unconscious, protester is seen in another clip, as he is apparently dragged by police officers:
Pepper spray was used in a staircase inside Admiralty MTR station as protesters retreated. In this clip, one man is seen continuing to use his phone amid the chaos:
A protester carrying water was surrounded by police officers and was beaten and pepper sprayed:
Pepper spray was continuously used against a passive protester near the Central Post Office in Central:
Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.
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