Police allegedly firing a pepper ball gun at protesters on Sun (11 Aug). Source: AppleDaily

Hong Kong protests: Police ramp up use of weapons against protesters; Chief Executive Carrie Lam says HK is “severely wounded”

Hong Kong police have once again received strong condemnation as officers were spotted using severe means to handle protesters of the extradition Bill last Sun (11 Aug).

South China Morning Post reported that undercover police officers had made arrests in Causeway Bay, and that weapons such as tear gas and pepper balls were fired against protesters at MTR stations in Kwai Fong and Tai Koo respectively.

A police officer who had allegedly went undercover as one of the protesters can be seen kicking and pinning down a bloodied protester to the ground in Causeway Bay on Sun night in a footage posted by Hong Kong Free Press on Mon (12 Aug).

WARNING: Viewers may find the following footage distressing due to its graphic nature.

HKFP added that the alleged undercover police officers had “brandished batons”, and that the operation “was conducted without warning” despite protesters gathering peacefully that night.

One protester in Tsim Sha Tsui suffered a rupture in her right eye after allegedly being hit by police with what was identified as a bean ban round, which went against the police rules, according to HKFP.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo however condemned what he branded as the “reckless, violent and unlawful acts” of protesters after visiting a police officer at Prince Margaret Hospital.

The police officer was sent to the hospital following burn injuries sustained after being hit by a petrol bomb thrown by a protester.

In Wan Chai, where the police headquarters is situated, BBC reported that police officers charged at protesters in response to protestors throwing petrol bombs and bricks at them.

Assistant commissioner of police Terence Mak Chin-ho, who is placed in charge of operations, told SCMP in response to criticisms levied against the police that tear gas and pepper balls are not firearms, and that deploying them “at such a close range will not have the effect most would expect”.

Academic Eric Cheung Tat-ming, an academic and previously a member of a police watchdog, however told SCMP that the use of such weapons in Kwai Fong and Tai Koo “went beyond the intent of stopping any crime when officers made the arrests in the stations”.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam remains reluctant to resign, says HK is “severely wounded”

Chief Executive Council Carrie Lam meanwhile told reporters today (13 Aug) that Hong Kong “will see severe wounds” that will “take a long time” to recover from as a result of the process.

“I ask everybody to put aside our differences and calm down, take a minute to look at our city, our home. Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?” she added.

However, she remains adamant on staying as Chief Executive despite widespread calls from anti-extradition Bill protesters for her resignation in the wake of the controversy surrounding the proposed legislation.

“I, as chief executive, will be responsible to rebuild Hong Kong’s economy and to engage as widely as possible, to listen as attentively as possible so people’s grievances can be [addressed],” said Lam.

Previously, she announced, while chairing the Executive Council meeting in early July, that the extradition Bill is “dead”.

Lam said that the decision was made as there were “still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity, or worries whether the government will restart the process in the legislative council”.

“Our work on the extradition bill amendment is a complete failure,” she told reporters during a news conference.

Lam also urged “all the people who were involved in the activities over the past month — whether police officers or protestors — to “submit materials to this independent investigation committee,” and gave the assurance that all such information will be treated as confidential.

“I understand that the responses I’ve made so far may not meet all of the requests and requirements made by the protestors. This is not about me or myself or my dignity.

“This is to strike balance between the Hong Kong government [and the protestors], and I believe what I’ve suggested is feasible and practical,” she said.

“So I hope that everybody will give a chance to the Hong Kong SAR government, to remain calm and let us walk out of this troublesome situation, and let us learn our lesson in the face of large-scale public events.”

“Personally, I take full responsibility of what happened,” said Beijing-backed Lam.

Lam, however, stayed mum about any prospects of withdrawing the Bill completely.

An unnamed source reportedly told Financial Times that Beijing refuses to allow Lam’s resignation, as “No one else can clean up the mess and no one else wants the job.”

The protests that swept across Hong Kong in recent weeks arose out of concerns over the scope of powers that will be granted upon certain jurisdictions Hong Kong decides to extradite crime suspects to – particularly mainland China – should the extradition Bill be passed, as certain factions remain sceptical of Beijing’s capacity to refrain from abusing the extradition arrangements.