Hong Kong’s tear gas use en­dan­gers crowds

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY K.K. RE­BECCA LAI AND AUSTIN RAMZY

Hong Kong po­lice have fired more than 1,800 rounds of tear gas as the mass protests grip­ping the city have be­come in­creas­ingly fraught.

Ex­perts who re­viewed videos for The New York Times said the po­lice had re­peat­edly vi­o­lated stan­dards for safely dis­pers­ing crowds, putting pro­test­ers and by­standers in se­ri­ous dan­ger.

Hong Kong po­lice have de­fended their use of tear gas, say­ing the protests have be­come more vi­o­lent in re­cent weeks, with demon­stra­tors em­brac­ing more ag­gres­sive tac­tics. Ac­tivists have thrown bricks, blocked streets and set fires.

The po­lice say they have acted with re­straint. Of­ten, they hold up large ban­ners warn­ing the crowds about tear gas be­fore they fire. But a Times re­view of dozens of episodes in­volv­ing tear gas show po­lice, at times, have used meth­ods that ex­perts de­scribe as indis­crim­i­nate and ex­ces­sive. Many record­ings show of­fi­cers de­ploy­ing tear gas against crowds that ap­peared non­vi­o­lent and that were not at­tack­ing po­lice.

“This is ridicu­lous,” said Jim Bueer­mann, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Po­lice Foun­da­tion in Wash­ing­ton, re­fer­ring to a video that ap­peared to show tear gas be­ing fired off an of­fice tower.

“I would find this to be com­pletely un­ac­cept­able un­der Amer­i­can stan­dards,” added Bueer­mann, a for­mer po­lice chief who ad­vises law en­force­ment agen­cies. “You are now tak­ing a less-lethal tool, the tear gas, and mak­ing it a po­ten­tially lethal ob­ject.”

On Satur­day, po­lice again fired tear gas and pro­test­ers threw stones and gaso­line bombs, sig­nal­ing the end of a brief pe­riod of rel­a­tive calm.

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