The police have invited bids for supply of three anti-riot vehicles equipped with water cannons, sparking fresh concerns among human rights activists and some lawmakers.
Among other criticism being faced by police authorities is that the tenders were launched without notifying the Legislative Council’s Panel on Security in advance, news portal hk01.com reported.
The proposal for water cannons, which are part of a HK$27 million (US$3.46 million) procurement plan unveiled last year, had come under fire earlier as they were seen as part of the police’s crowd control strategies in response to the 2014 pro-democracy protests.
According to tender documents cited by hk01.com, each of the anti-riot vehicles will be equipped with at least 15 water cannons of different sizes.
Of the 15 cannons in each vehicle, two main ones will be set on top of the vans and will be able to eject 1,200 liters of water each in all directions at 1,000 kPa pressure per minute.
As the water power can be as much as 200 pounds, an adult who encounters the impact could be hurled into air before falling to the ground.
In addition to pure water, the cannons can also fire water mixed with pigments or tear smoke as well as foam.
The tender documents were said to have been issued in December.
A police spokesman said the decision to buy the three anti-riot vehicles, where are in use in places such as Germany, Belgium, South Korea and even Macau, was made with an aim to effectively disperse violent demonstrators and create a safe distance between them and policemen.
The tender documents show that each of the vehicles can carry four people on board and will have a life span of nine years with maximum 20,000 kilometers of running distance each year.
Wong Ho-ying, a member of the rights group Civil Rights Observer, said demonstrations in Hong Kong have been generally peaceful and there is really no need for the police to introduce such powerful water cannons.
He added that the police have so far neither informed the public about the use and authorization procedures of the vehicles nor submitted their specifications to the LegCo’s security committee.
Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun, a member of the LegCo committee, said he suspects that there could be a deliberate reason behind the police’s failure to submit the specifications.
The panel’s chairman Ip Kwok-him, a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said its members might not discuss the specifications as they are not experts.
The real important issue is ensuring that the water cannons will not be abused, he said.
A police spokesman told hk01.com that it may be better if usage instructions and deployment of the water cannons are left unknown to the public.
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