Young people came up with a new form of protest in Hong Kong on Friday morning by taking their own buckets and towels to clean up Kwai Fong MTR station, where police fired tear gas during anti-government demonstrations last weekend.
At least seven protesters joined the clean-up action responding to an online call to highlight the railway operator’s “failure” to pursue police over why tear gas was fired at the station. The online call also urged people to stop trains that had not yet been cleaned.
However, the activity did not affect train services.
Sunday was the first time riot police used tear gas against protesters inside an MTR station.
The action of firing tear gas canisters in enclosed areas, which might have caused a considerable risk of death or serious injury, even sparked criticism from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
By about 9am on Friday, at least seven masked young people had turned up at the MTR station with towels and water buckets to carry out the cleaning job, wiping walls and around the lobby to remove signs of tear gas.
Philemon Tam, an 18-year-old student, was among the first to arrive at the station. With a small bucket of water and towels, he began cleaning a wall near the ticket machines at about 7.20am.
“I just wanted to help, as I heard that the poisonous gas could accumulate in places where it is fired,” Tam said.
He left his home in Sha Tin at 6am to do the clean-up.
Tam was later joined by Yau Ma Tei resident Adam Chan, 30, who had brought a broom from home.
He placed a towel on the head of the broom and cleaned tear gas spots from high-up areas, such as the station’s ceiling and lights.
He said he had taken a half-day off work for the job.
A few MTR workers stood nearby and monitored the youngsters as they cleaned.
Another participant, Bubble Chan, in her 20s, said she wanted MTR bosses to know people were not happy with their handling of the protest-related matters.
“We urge the MTR Corporation not to let police enter the stations and not to allow tear gas to be fired on its premises,” said Bubble Chan, who works in the social welfare sector.
The MTR Corp said on Monday it had urged police to consider staff and passenger safety during law enforcement operations. It also said on Thursday it had cleaned the station intensively to remove the gas marks.
But Chan said the corporation’s efforts were not enough.
“The water in our buckets and the towels turned black with dirt within just 15 minutes of cleaning,” she said.
Some passers-by appreciated the youngsters’ action.
“I was touched by their efforts,” said Kwai Fong resident Sharon Tam, who works in banking.
She said the MTR Corp had not responded to the local residents’ request that it hold police accountable for firing tear gas in the station.
Another resident, Amy Wong, 70, felt the youngsters’ cleaning job would have little effect.
“Still, it is better than doing nothing,” she said.
She said she had needed to hold her breath when walking past the station even hours after tear gas was fired on Sunday.
This article Youngsters gather at Hong Kong’s Kwai Fong MTR station with water buckets and towels to clean up marks of tear gas fired during anti-government protests on Sunday first appeared on South China Morning Post