The police on Sunday said its water-cannon truck had “accidentally” sprayed blue-dyed water at the entrance and gates of the Kowloon Mosque in Tsim Sha Tsui, saying officers had been targeting ‘rioters’ outside.
But some of those who were sprayed told RTHK they were there to protect the structure from vandalism, only to end up getting "attacked" by police.
A group of senior officers visited the mosque in the evening, including Yau Tsim District Commander Ho Yun-sing and Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu, to meet with representatives of the mosque. Several police officers arrived with plastic pails and rags in hand, and attempted to clean up some handrails at the entrance for several minutes. They did not speak to the media.
“It is most unfortunate that the dispersal operation has caused unintended impact on the Kowloon Mosque”, the police said in a statement.
The force said it immediately reached out to the chief imam and other Muslim community leaders to “clarify the situation and to show our concern.”
“The Police respect religious freedom in Hong Kong and will strive to protect all places of worship”, the statement concluded.
The leader of Hong Kong’s 200,000-strong Muslim population, Chief Imam Muhammad Arshad, told RTHK he believes officers did not intentionally direct the water cannon at the mosque.
“I don't think that they targeted the mosque. Indeed it should have not been done in front of the mosque, but I don’t blame the police… they targeted… the protesters.”
Businessman Philip Khan – a local businessman and activist of Pakistani origin – said he developed an infection after getting hit with the jet of deep-blue water.
Khan – a Muslim – said he was with a small group of people who were there to stand guard against potential vandals, following earlier online calls for people to target the mosque because of the reported ethnicity of the thugs who attacked Civil Human Rights convenor Jimmy Sham in Mong Kok on Wednesday.
“We were just standing over there defending the mosque against any kind of attack, and we didn’t think that it would be the police who would use the cannon to spray [us]” Khan said.
“At that time there were no protesters at all in the street… Because there were no other people and they were only targeting the mosque and then targeting us. This is unacceptable”, he said.
Khan described the incident as an offence against his religion.
“It’s not a personal thing, but they are doing it against my religion, and I’m against it”, he said.
Khan said the Commissioner of Police should issue a formal apology, and added that the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, should condemn the police for this attack.
The mosque itself was left unscathed, but part of the front gates, and the floor outside the mosque was left a pale blue by the coloured water.
A group of volunteers and protesters helped clean up the dye after the incident.
The Civil Human Rights Front also condemned the police action, saying the use of the water cannon was unnecessary.
The group – whose application to hold a march against the anti-mask law on Sunday was rejected by police – said the force had abused their power, and insulted a place of religious worship.
It said several other people who were targeted by police, including Civic Party legislator Jeremy Tam, had to seek hospital treatment after the incident.
Last updated: 2019-10-20 HKT 22:21