Tear gas fired after 'Hungry Ghost' protest in Sham Shui Po

August 15, 2019 17:21
Police fire multiple canisters of tear gas at protesters during a dispersal operation in Sham Shui Po on Wednesday night. Photo: Reuters

Police fired tear gas on Wednesday night at a group of people who gathered in Sham Shui Po for a protest action that included burning of joss paper bearing images of top Hong Kong officials.

Taking umbrage at the demonstrators who appeared to mock and insult the authorities through acts such as burning of special joss money and chanting of slogans, as well as directing laser beams at the local police station, officers lobbed tear gas at the mostly peaceful "Hungry Ghost" protesters.

Demonstrators had earlier congregated near the Sham Shui Police Station, responding to calls spread online, to voice their unhappiness with recent events, particularly the arrest of Keith Fong Chung-yin, president of the Hong Kong Baptist University Students’ Union.

Fong was detained last week after he was found in possession of laser pointers, which the police deemed as "offensive weapons".

Though he was released two days later without any condition, activists are angry at what they strongly feel was a totally unjustified arrest. 

Aiming to show their displeasure, some netizens picked the Yu Lan Festival, or Hungry Ghost Festival, to make their voice heard outside the Sham Shui Police Station. 

The festival traditionally falls on the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. This year, that date happens to be August 15.

During the festival, people usually buy sacrificial offerings and burn incense and joss paper for ghosts and ancestors to use in their afterlife, while food is also offered to “feed” the hungry ghosts, in accordance with traditional Chinese beliefs.

On Wednesday, on the eve of the festival, some citizens sought to use the occasion to send a message to the government and the police that the gates of hell would be open to them following  their conduct in the past two months when Hong Kong was wracked by anti-extradition protests. 

Apart from that, the Wednesday demonstrators, who numbered a few hundred, also sought to mourn the loss of lives of some young people who were suspected to have taken their own lives in the recent past due to unhappiness over the social and political situation in Hong Kong.

Outside the police station on Wednesday night, the crowd that joined the protest call, including local residents and young people from elsewhere, burned joss money printed with the images of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-Chung, RTHK reported.

They also chanted slogans and used laser pointers to shine beams at the police station.

Following some warnings initially, police officers fired multiple canisters of tear gas from inside the police station at the protesters starting around 9:45 pm.

More rounds were fired later at the protesters after officers arrived at the area of Yen Chow Street and Lai Chi Kok Road at around 10:30 pm.

The tear gas affected some people inside the nearby MTR station, according to the RTHK report.

Almost at the same time, similar protest activities were taking place outside the police stations in Tin Shui Wai, Tai Po and Sheung Shui police stations.

In other news, more than dozens of medical staff on Wednesday staged demonstrations at Ruttonjee Hospital and Tang Siu Kin Hospital against what they deemed as abuse of power by the police, joining their counterparts who did so on Tuesday in at least 13 other hospitals.

On Monday and Tuesday, many medical workers covered their right eyes with gauze in a show of solidarity for a woman who was seriously injured after being hit in her right eye by a suspected bean-bag round fired by the police during dispersal operations in Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday.

More than 700 MTR employees in a petition on Wednesday asked the railway operator to severely condemn the police for undermining railway premises safety with their actions.

The employees also urged the railway firm not to blindly cooperate with law enforcers.

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