Date
19 November 2019
Carrie Lam leaves the Kowloon Mosque after visiting the place Monday and apologizing to the Imam and other representatives of the Muslim community over a police water-cannot incident. Photo: HKEJ
Carrie Lam leaves the Kowloon Mosque after visiting the place Monday and apologizing to the Imam and other representatives of the Muslim community over a police water-cannot incident. Photo: HKEJ

Lam, police chief apologize to mosque over water-cannon incident

 Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the city’s police chief, Stephen Lo Wai-chung, apologized on Monday to representatives of the Kowloon Mosque over an incident the previous day, when an anti-riot vehicle fired jets of blue-dyed water toward the front gate of the mosque during a police dispersal operation against protesters on the streets in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Seeking to allay concerns of the Muslim community and reiterate that the spraying outside the mosque had been unintentional, Lam and Lo visited the place of worship in the morning and had a meeting with Muhammad Arshad, the chief Imam of Hong Kong.

They left after staying in the premises for about 20 minutes, and did not respond to questions from the media.

Representatives from the mosque revealed after the meeting that Lam and Lo had both apologized for the Sunday incident, and that the mosque had accepted the apologies and the explanations.

The police had explained that the incident was a mistake and that the spraying of the water jets toward the mosque was not intentional, according to the mosque representatives.

The mosque representatives, meanwhile, stressed that Muslim groups love peace and support Hong Kong, and they would like to call on all groups in the city to calm down and engage in discussions.

Mohan Chugani, a former chairman of the Indian Association, was among those who found themselves sprayed by water cannon on Sunday. He told the media that there were no protesters outside the mosque, and that he can’t understand why the water cannon vehicle took aim at the facility.

Chugani, who had to receive medical treatment following the incident, said he will write a compliant letter to Chief Executive Lam.

On Sunday, responding to criticism that water jets were fired at the front gate of a place of worship, the police said it was an unfortunate accident that happened as the law enforcement personnel were trying to quell “rioters” who had gathered in the Tsim Sha Tsui area after an illegal mass-rally earlier in the day.

During the afternoon yesterday, the Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre, the largest mosque in Hong Kong, saw its main entrance gate and stairs being sprayed with blue-dyed water after the police deployed a water cannon vehicle to disperse protesters in the area.

Representatives from the police force including senior officers later went to the mosque, located at the intersection of Nathan Road and Haiphong Road, to explain the police move to representatives of the mosque.

At around midnight, the police said in a post in their Facebook page that Chief Superintendent Ricky Ho Yun-sing, district commander of Yau Tsim District, Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan of the Police Public Relations Branch, and two non-ethnic Chinese police officers “paid a visit to the Kowloon Mosque to meet with Imams.”

“During the meeting, Police representatives expressed concern and explained in detail to the Imams about the usage of a Specialised Crowd Management Vehicle and coloured water on Nathan Road outside the Kowloon Mosque,” the post said.

“The Police highly respect places of worship as well as religious freedom, and will continue to maintain close communication with the Kowloon Mosque and the Muslim community in Hong Kong,” the law enforcement agency said in the social media post.

The Sunday incident took place at around 4:30 pm, when a specialized crowd management vehicle equipped with water cannon was dispatched to in Tsim Sha Tsu in response to protesters’ violent acts.

A live video posted by Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho on his Facebook page, as well as other online footage, showed the vehicle suddenly stop outside the mosque before it sprayed blue-dyed water at the pedestrian walk, on which there were only about a dozen journalists and citizens at that time, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The vehicle then moved forward and did the same again.

Earlier on Sunday night, the police said in a Facebook post that it is “most unfortunate that the dispersal operation has caused unintended impact on the Kowloon Mosque.”

The police said they have “immediately contacted to the Chief Imam as well as Muslim community leaders to clarify the situation and show our concern.”

The police respects “religious freedom in Hong Kong and will strive to protect all places of worship,” it added.

After the incident, many citizens volunteered to help clean the mosque. The mosque’s appearance had mostly returned to normal quickly.

The police also sent some staff later in the evening, at around 9:30 pm, to the scene to do cleaning work.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which applied for Sunday’s march last week but were refused permission, slammed the police for abusing their power and insulting a place of religious worship.

The pro-democracy group demanded that police chief Lo should apologize for the mosque incident.

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TL/JC/RC

On Sunday, a specialized crowd management vehicle equipped with water cannon fired jets of blue-dyed water toward the front gate of the mosque during a dispersal operation against street protesters. Photo: Facebook/Jeremy Tam