A government official — one who has presumably never smelled cooking meats or tear gas — claimed today before Hong Kong’s legislature that smoke from barbecuing food is more harmful than noxious crowd control agents.
The remarks were made by Welfare Secretary Law Chi-kwong, who was in the chamber this afternoon to respond to questions from lawmakers. One of the questions came from pro-democracy lawmaker Fernando Cheung, who asked Law if the government had carried out any assessments on whether tear gas could affect the long-term health of people with disabilities, or if they had spoken to any people from nursing homes who had been affected by police’s profligate use of tear gas in recent months.
RTHK reports that Law responded that tear gas only causes mild respiratory and skin irritation, and that they haven’t received any reports of severe health effects caused by the substance, despite a frontline journalist recently being diagnosed with chloracne — a condition caused by overexposure to dioxins, which some speculated could have been from tear gas.
Law went on to maintain that dioxins released from burning plastic barriers, garbage, and roadside railings would have been one of the biggest causes of toxic dioxins in the city’s air recently.
“For the dioxins resulting from tear gas, I think it has been found from literature that it is minimal or even nonexistent. In fact when compared with dioxins resulting from our barbecue activities, I think the level is indeed very minimal,” Law said.
Over on social media, meanwhile, the remarks prompted thousands of eyes to violently roll right out of their sockets.
“I have never heard anyone got the Chloracne after barbecue,” one user noted.
Another simply called the assertion “idiotic.”
Police have fired thousands upon thousands of tear gas rounds since protests began in June, with officers deploying the rounds a near-daily basis during some stretches of unrest.
Lawmakers and pro-democracy groups have raised questions about the possible long-term health effects of the tear gas, but the government has largely dismissed these concerns.
That the government has also continued to refuse to reveal the chemical makeup of the tear gas has similarly fueled fears among Hongkongers that they’re being poisoned.
Those fears were not helped by the fact that in October, police confirmed that they had purchased tear gas canisters made in the mainland, as opposed to their previous supplier in the United States.
Read more protest coverage at Coconuts HK.