Hong Kong police fire tear gas as anti-government protesters gather outside Sham Shui Po station, pointing laser beams and chanting ‘black cops’ and ‘return the eye’

Danny Mok

Hong Kong police fired tear gas at anti-government protesters who had gathered outside Sham Shui Po Police Station to pray for blessings in a celebration of the annual Hungry Ghost Festival on Wednesday night after they refused to stop aiming laser beams at the building and leave the area.

The event started at 8pm on Yen Chow Street outside the Dragon Centre shopping centre, which is near Sham Shui Po Police Station, one of the spots where protesters had clashed with officers on several occasions earlier this month.

A few dozen participants burned paper offerings to mark the festival, a traditional Taoist and Buddhist event that takes place on the 14th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, which fell on Wednesday this year.

Portraits of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and former Chinese premier Li Peng, who died recently aged 90, were printed on some of the “hell money” they burned.

Some participants soon started to point laser beams at the police station from a footbridge linking Dragon Centre with the other side of the road while chanting “black cops” and “return the eye”, referring to the severe eye injuries sustained by a female protester outside Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station on Sunday. Those activities quickly drew warnings from officers inside through an audio system at about 8.15pm.

Protesters throw ‘hell money’ at police in Sham Shui Po. Photo: Winson Wong

Protesters were told to stop using laser pointers against the premises and officers, and warned that doing so would be regarded as an assault on police.

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Police gave their “final” verbal warning at 8.20pm, saying they would use force to disperse the protesters if they did not stop using the laser pointers. The originally peaceful gathering became tense when a squad of riot police marched out from the station at about 8.45pm.

Lasers are pointed at the police station. Photo: Winson Wong

The riot police went to the footbridge while raising a red flag warning protesters to stop charging or risk being treated with force. About 100 protesters who had gathered on the bridge with their laser pointers quickly dispersed.

Riot police also marched in a line along Yen Chow Street and urged people to leave, but protesters remained and continued to point lasers on the outer wall of the station from other locations on the street. A blue flag was raised at about 9.05pm, warning that the gathering was illegal.

Police raise a warning flag on a footbridge near Dragon Centre. Photo: Winson Wong

The first hint of force, including a tear gas warning, was issued verbally at 9.16pm.

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Several rounds of tear gas were fired at 9.44pm from inside the station, scattering the protesters immediately. Police fired a second round of tear gas at 9.54pm, with few protesters seen on Yen Chow Street and after warning reporters to leave.

At 10pm, police raised both tear gas and open fire warnings while charging in a line along Yen Chow Street. More tear gas rounds were fired as they moved along Yen Chow Street towards Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices.

Tear gas was fired on Yen Chow Street. Photo: Winson Wong

A man was seen being helped away by a volunteer medic. His condition was not known.

Tear gas was also fired at the junction of Ap Liu Street and Kweilin Street.

Residents in the area shouted down at police in the street from their flats, some calling them “black cops”.

At 11pm, 10 minutes after officers returned to the police station, protesters returned and again shone lasers at the building while hurling abuse. About 30 minutes later, police issued another warning through the audio system, urging people to stop using laser beams and to leave immediately, but the call was ignored by protesters, who became more angry.

Police replied: “Yell louder, I can’t hear … continue to break the laws. You lawbreakers are just like triads.”

Meanwhile, at a similar religious event, 100 protesters gathered outside Tin Shui Wai Police Station and threw papers offerings inside. Police raised a blue flag at 11.15pm, warning the protesters that the assembly was illegal.

About 30 minutes later, riot police ran out and dispersed them. At least five people were seen subdued on the ground and then taken into a police vehicle.

Separately, three men – aged 26, 27 and 34 – were arrested in Yuen Long on Wednesday for illegally discharging fireworks. They were suspected of setting the fireworks off from a car as it drove past a crowd of anti-government protesters outside Tin Shui Wai Police Station on July 31. Six people were injured.

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