HONG KONG: Suspected bombs were found by police officers on four occasions during the Hong Kong protests on Sunday (Oct 20), authorities said.
More than 100 petrol bombs were thrown by protesters, police said, adding that officers had fired 260 tear gas canisters and 130 rubber bullets. Hospital authorities said 27 people were injured, with three in a serious condition.
“The police strongly condemn all these lawless and reckless behaviour. No excuse can justify these acts of violence against our own community,” Regional Commander of Kowloon West district Cheuk Hau-yip said at a press conference.
The police added that a robot had intentionally detonated a box that was suspected to contain a bomb.
When asked about the police’s investigations into the protests, Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said more than 2,000 protesters have been arrested.
He noted that the majority of those arrested were “quite young” and that they had their own gear and protective equipment.
Chief superintendent John Tse also said that the police’s tactics have “evolved” according to the rising threat level of the protests.
“In general, given the escalating violence and deadly weapons used by the protesters, there is a need to match their level of force,” he said.
Other measures include purchasing new tactical suits and protective gear for officers and utilising more auxiliary police officers to support frontline duties like patrolling and handling incident calls, he added.
Tens of thousands joined an unauthorised but peaceful afternoon rally on Sunday that quickly descended into chaos as small groups of hardcore protesters threw petrol bombs and rocks at a police station, mainland Chinese businesses and multiple MTR station entrances.
Police responded with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets in clashes that lasted well into the night.
The entrance to the city’s biggest mosque was painted blue when a police truck fired a water cannon at a handful of people outside.
Video footage shot on Sunday showed the truck pulling up outside the building during confrontations with protesters, pausing and then spraying around half a dozen people who were gathered on the street outside.
The group, who did not appear to be protesters, was struck twice, with much of the bright blue liquid painting the mosque’s entrance and steps.
Police released a statement on Sunday saying the mosque was hit by mistake.
“As the vehicle approached Nathan Road outside the Kowloon Mosque, coloured water was used for effecting the dispersal, which accidentally affected the entrance and front gate of the Kowloon Mosque,” said the Hong Kong Police Force on Twitter.
“It is most unfortunate that the dispersal operation has caused unintended impact on the Kowloon Mosque,” added the police. “Following the incident, the police have immediately contacted the Chief Imam as well as Muslim community leaders to clarify the situation and to show our concern.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam paid a brief visit to the mosque on Monday.
“Mrs Lam extended an apology for the inadvertent spraying of the mosque’s main entrance and gate,” her office said in a statement.
Police also apologised to Muslim leaders after the incident.
“Immediately after the incident, our police representative offered sincere apologies to the chief imam and the Muslim community leaders,” Mr Cheuk told reporters.
Mosque representatives confirmed that the police and chief executive had apologised. Chief Imam Muhammad Arshad said the apology was accepted and that the Islamic community hopes to continue living peacefully in Hong Kong.
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