A 12-year-old boy was among the 54 people arrested in last night’s violent clashes in Tsuen Wan, which saw police deploy a new high-pressure water cannon for the first time and even saw one officer fire his gun.
According to a police, officers arrested 45 men and nine women, aged 12 to 51, for offenses including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, and assaulting police officers.
“Police severely condemn such violence which was outrageous and have overstepped the bottom line of a civilised society,” a police statement read. “Only when there were violent acts or illegal behaviours which endangered the safety of people at scene, Police would stop them by proportionate use of force to prevent the incidents from worsening.”
The statement goes on to urge the public to “make a clean break with violent protestors and stay away from areas with violence,” and also said that they hope journalists could “cooperate with operations of police officers and pay attention to their own safety.”
The announcement came hours after Tsuen Wan, a town in the western part of the New Territories, became the latest battleground in clashes between police and anti-government protesters.
Ming Pao reports that as of 11:30pm last night, at least 21 men and one woman had been sent to hospital for treatment. One of the men was reportedly in serious condition, while 12 were in stable condition. The remaining eight men and one woman had already been discharged.
Police said that 15 of their officers sustained injuries during the clashes and were also sent to hospital for treatment.
It is urban warfare in Tsuen Wan right now. Tear gas, rubber bullets, petrol bombs, bricks and more. pic.twitter.com/vCRcllf4sp
— Ryan Ho Kilpatrick 何松濤 (@rhokilpatrick) August 25, 2019
Protesters are demanding the full withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill, an independent inquiry into police violence against protesters during the demonstrations — which have dragged on for some three months — and broader democratic reforms.
Police had previously issued a letter of no objection to the protest in Tsuen Wan, but the situation soon became tense around 3:30pm, with some hardcore protesters erecting makeshift roadblocks and throwing bricks and molotov cocktails at riot police.
The MTR — who had come under criticism for announcing they would shut down stations in the event of violence — said at 11:30am that they would be closing Kwai Fong, Tsuen Wan, and Tsuen Wan West stations at 1:30pm.
At around 5:30pm, police started using tear gas and deployed of their new water cannon-mounted trucks to disperse protesters.
Water cannon deployed toward protesters. pic.twitter.com/k3QgJVacuu
— Nathan VanderKlippe (@nvanderklippe) August 25, 2019
At around 7:40pm, protesters at Yi Pei Square in Tsuen Wan began to hurl objects at police officers, and charged them with rods and other makeshift weapons. One of the officers, who were badly outnumbered, fell to the ground in the scrum, prompting six officers to draw their service pistols and aim them at protesters and nearby journalists. One even fired a warning shot in the air in what is believed to have been the first use of live ammunition since protests began.
Police say they were left with no choice but to fire the warning shot after they found themselves overrun by protesters.
Police fired one shot to the sky during the clashes with protesters. pic.twitter.com/uPyLjRl65I
— Lok Lee (@Lealokkk) August 25, 2019
In the video below protesters can be heard yelling “you can’t fire your gun” and “are you crazy?” after officers brandished their weapons. Police, meanwhile, can be heard yelling “calm down.”
NOTE: This story has been updated to include revised arrest figures from police.