Hong Kong: On Sunday, water cannons were used for the first time by the Hong Kong police on activists in the three-month-long autocracy-democracy faceoff. Following a rally at a nearby sports stadium, protesters clashed with the police in the district of Tsuen Wan where police officers were seen withdrawing sidearms.
Even in the pouring rain, thousands of people marched to Tsuen Wan and a group of stringent protesters dug up bricks from the pavements and erected makeshift roadblocks.
In an attempt to disperse the crowds, the police, soon after firing tear gas, drove water cannon vehicles onto the streets. Warning signs of deploying the jets were unfurled to the protesters to make them leave the place.
Later, water was fired towards a crowd of protesters from the jets attached to moving trucks. Even though most of them tried to run away, it did not have any effect on the hardcore protesters who threw Molotov cocktails and bricks on the police.
No immediate injuries were reported during the incident.
Police had previously said that the trucks, equipped with surveillance cameras and multiple spray nozzles, would only be deployed in the case of a “large-scale public disturbance”.
A mix of propaganda, intimidation and economic muscle has been used by Beijing, throughout the protests, to constrict it in a strategy dubbed “white terror”.
Latest to face public censure is the city’s metro – the MTR, which has bent to Chinese state-media attacks that accused the transport system of being an “exclusive” service to protesters to rallies.
Sunday was the second day of station closures in-a-row for the MTR which shut stations near the main demonstration area in Tsuen Wan.
“However bleak our future is, we’re trying to express ourselves rationally,” said Peter, a protester in his 20s, before the clashes began. “We have faith in ourselves and we have faith in our city that someday our demands will be answered,” he added.
In the afternoon, a second rally of a few hundred people was carried out which also included some of the family members of the Hong Kong police, who criticised the government for leaving the brunt of the crisis on officers. They also called for an independent investigation into the incident.
“I believe within these two months, police have got enough opprobrium,” said a police officer’s wife who asked not to be named.
The city’s officers are often the focus of protesters’ anger because of their perceived heavy handling of the rallies.
After Saturday’s clashes, ten people were left in the hospital – two of them in a serious condition – it is unknown if the injured were police or protesters.
Police baton-charged protesters and fired tear gas, on Saturday, while demonstrators threw bottles and rock in a working-class neighbourhood.
According to protesters, as Beijing tightens its political chokehold on the semi-autonomous city, Hong Kong’s unique freedom is in jeopardy. Shortly after protests paralysed the airport, the entire city of Hong Kong came to a standstill.