Road tests for the Hong Kong police’s new HK$16.59 million (US$2.1 million) anti-riot vehicles, equipped with powerful water cannons, are slated to get underway soon, with the vehicles expected to be ready for duty as soon as mid-August, according to the SCMP.
Citing an unnamed insider, the SCMP reports that senior police commanders are considering mixing hard-to-remove dyes or tear agents into the cannons’ water supply, though such plans are still in their infancy.
“Those at the forefront charging at us could be sprayed with paint. The paint is hard to remove, so it is useful for us to identify who charged us. But at this stage, we are still discussing whether it is an option,” the senior police source said.
Each anti-riot truck is fitted with 15 high-pressure cannons. The water cannons on the roof, for instance, have a range of 50 meters, with an output of at least 1,200 liters per minute.
The police did not immediately respond to a request by Coconuts HK today seeking confirmation as to whether they were indeed planning to field the anti-riot vehicles.
The three Mercedes Benz-made trucks arrived in Hong Kong last May, and are currently stationed at the Police Tactical Headquarters in Fanling.
Whether to bring in heavier responses to the city’s ongoing protests was the subject of a debate between Lawmakers Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Leung Che-cheung on an RTHK radio program today. Leung, the pro-establishment Yuen Long council representative, suggested water cannons were a viable alternative as tear gas has proven ineffective.
“Water cannons aren’t as damaging and are more effective for controlling violent protesters. If you question the efficacy of tear gas, I think we can call for the police to use water cannons,” Leung said.
At a Security Bureau press conference back in May, Undersecretary for Security Au Chi-Kwong refused to disclose the cannons’ maximum water pressure.
“The police are not planning to announce the water pressure of the cannons. If some people get a hold of this information, they will reduce the effectiveness of police equipment by devising opposing tactics.”
Pan-dem convenor Claudia Mo criticized the police at the time for not publicizing the operational capabilities, saying it was “unfair” and “creates a sense of polarization between the police and the citizens.”
Legislative Councillor Au Lok Hin also raised concerns in May that similar water cannons have precedents in causing blindness. His concerns were echoed by police monitoring groups, who claim the use of water cannons is more likely than tear gas to cause injuries on the streets due to collisions with debris.
The crowd control device has killed in the past as well. A South Korean protester died in 2016 after being knocked over by a water cannon blast and slamming his head on the pavement.