In Hong Kong, why police put blue in their water cannons


HONG KONG – Station with blue water. Hong Kong was again the scene of clashes between pro-democracy protesters and law enforcement this Saturday, August 31. Thousands of activists defied the ban on demonstrations and took to the streets of the former British colony, following the arrest of several figures of the movement.

Molotov cocktails, burnt barricades and tear gas … The tension mounted in the late afternoon, when a small group of radicals attacked police officers around the compound housing the Hong Kong institutions including the LegCo, Local "Parliament" that had been sacked on July 1st. They briefly managed to break down the barriers protecting the building, before being repulsed by the police with great tear gas, with the intervention of water cannons projecting a blue liquid, as shown by the agency images. press and witnesses on site.

Around 6 pm local time, water cannons began to spit blue colored water. According to independent media Hong Kong Free Press, the police present said by loudspeakers that this water would be used to identify the demonstrators, so easily recognizable, with a view to their arrest once the demonstration dispersed.

"A threat to freedom of expression"

Amnesty International denounced a few weeks ago the use of these water cannons, on the one hand because the pressure of the water can hurt the demonstrators and on the other hand, because of this blue additive which can contain products irritating but also lead to police "harassment" or "unjustified" arrests, according to the NGO.

"The use of water cannons containing irritants and dyes in residential areas is a threat to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. In addition to the risk of serious injury, the use of dye means that a large number of people, including peaceful protesters, journalists and local residents, can be marked indiscriminately. This raises concerns about human rights, as to what will happen to those who will be marked once the crowd dispersed, "said an Amnesty spokeswoman before adding:

"We urge the Hong Kong police to exercise the utmost restraint before deciding to deploy water cannons. This powerful police weapon should only be used proportionately when the level of violence is such that it can not be controlled by directly targeting those involved in acts of violence. "

Water cannons were used for the first time as part of the protest movement in Hong Kong on Sunday, August 25 in the Tsuen Wan district.

France amateur blue water cannons

This technique is not new because in France in particular, the yellow vests have already been dealing with this same blue water during some of their manifestations, especially during their act 23 April 20. According to information from Franceinfo, it is methylene blue, a temporary marker that dyes the clothing or skin of protesters and is stored in a small tank of the water cannon. It then allows the police to make stops.

Another technique of marking the demonstrators was also mentioned by Christophe Castaner following a particularly violent act: the PMC (coded marking products). On France Inter, the Minister of the Interior had explained: "If you rob a business, you do not realize it, but there is a jet of striking product on you, which then makes it possible to identify that you were there and that you are responsible for the burglary. "

"There are two types of markers. One that is a colored marker that if you are marked at the time of an offense, for example, and you find yourself two hours later on the subway, it will be easier to make a link. (…) The others are called 'DNA' (…) These are transparent markers that do that a few weeks later, if the investigation leads to think that you are responsible, you are challenged, we will find traces. We can say, such a day at such time you were in front of such store ".

In 2018, the substances thrown by the water canons had raised many questions after protesters noticed that the liquid had a nauseating odor, especially during the demonstrations of May 1. The police then denied using dirty or odorous water, but it turned out that a "protein-type emulsifier" had been poured on the militants. This product is a water-mixed additive consisting of dried blood, ground bone and cattle hoof powder, which is usually used by firefighters to extinguish a fire more quickly. The water cannon used had apparently been used to extinguish a barricade fire and was then requisitioned against the protesters. Residue was trapped and mixed with the water, giving it a bad odor.

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