On Sept. 28 last year, Hong Kong police fired 87 canisters of tear gas at pro-democracy protesters, signaling the start of the 79-day Umbrella Movement.
Public broadcaster RTHK has produced two episodes on the tear gas incident, looking at it from the perspective of both the police and the public.
Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, says his group will submit information regarding the police use of tear gas during the protests to United Nations’ Committee against Torture (CAT) in its upcoming convention in November.
The use of tear gas was unnecessary as protesters did not show any sign that they were planning to escalate their mass action, and the police manpower was more than enough for crowd control, Law said.
He said firing tear gas at such a short range could cause blindness, adding that police cannot justify its use by saying that they are applying the lowest level of force.
Chau Man-chung, a university student and member of Scholarism, witnessed the very first shot of tear gas bursting in mid-air at Harcourt Road in Admiralty near the government headquarters.
He recalled that the protesters mistook it for a smoke bomb, and it was only after they felt skin irritation and found in difficult to breathe that they realized they had been hit by tear gas.
After seeing riot policemen firing volleys of tear gas at unarmed citizens, Chau said he lost his trust in the government and the police.
He also now believes that mutual respect and discussion on political reforms between the government and democracy activists is no longer possible.
Wayne Siu Yik-ching, a 29-year-old teacher, immediately set off to Admiralty after watching a live television coverage of the tear gas incident.
On his way to the protest zone, he witnessed how police officers fired tear gas at peaceful demonstrators along Chater Road. He filmed the incident and published the three-minute video clip online without editing.
Siu said up to now it is still not clear to him who ordered the deployment of tear gas on the protesters. Until now he still can’t understand why police had to use it on the peaceful crowd.
Police said they had to use tear gas because large crowds of protesters were attempting to cross the police line, throwing water bottles at the officers and using umbrellas as weapons.
They also insisted that tear gas would not cause any permanent injury to people.
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