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Laser pointers, umbrellas and traffic cones: Everyday items turned 'weapons' in Hong Kong protests

Laser pointers, umbrellas and traffic cones: Everyday items turned 'weapons' in Hong Kong protests

Protesters shine a laser beam as they form up in gas masks and umbrellas during a confrontation with police in Hong Kong on Aug 3, 2019. (Photo: AP /Vincent Thian)

HONG KONG: As peaceful protests in Hong Kong against a planned extradition law grow increasingly violent, demonstrators' tools and tactics have evolved.

The arrest of a student on Tuesday (Aug 6) for possessing laser pointers has angered protesters but Hong Kong police called the pointers "offensive weapons", demonstrating at a press briefing on Wednesday how the laser beams were strong enough to burn through paper.

How did laser pens become "offensive weapons"? 

Here's a look at how the use of common items as well as the protesters' tactics have evolved over the course of what China has described as Hong Kong's worst crisis since 1997.

READ: Key dates as peaceful rallies against extradition Bill turn to violent clashes

READ: Chinese official says Hong Kong facing biggest crisis since 1997


Protesters with makeshift shields pass through a subway station on their way to a police station in Hong Kong on Aug 4, 2019. (Photo: AP / Kin Cheung)

When the marches first began, protesters lugged large umbrellas to the streets, which they used mainly for shelter from the sun. 

Recently, the umbrellas have played a more active role in the melees, sometimes used to cover protesters' faces from being identified, other times to block tear gas. 

READ: Hong Kong's summer of rage now a war of attrition

Wooden boards and container lids have been used as shields as well. 

Recently, protesters have also begun donning protective gear similar to the gear worn by riot police, including gas masks and helmets. 


Protesters huddle behind barriers and shine laser beams at riot police during a confrontation in Tsim Sha Tsui on Aug 3, 2019. (Photo: Steve Leung/HK01 via AP)

Laser pointers, which up until this time have been readily available in shops, have been increasingly used to temporarily blind police.

Police said that three officers have received medical treatment so far after "laser guns" were shone them.

Protesters have also been training them on surveillance cameras to disrupt their ability to capture faces.

The Washington Post reported that police officers have been using strong light beams to identify protesters and confuse them.  


Protester use a plate to cover a tear gas canister near the Legislative Council building and the Central Government building on Aug 5, 2019. (Photo: AP /Vincent Thian)

Police said that they fired about 800 tear gas rounds on Monday - almost as many as the 1,000 rounds they said they had fired throughout the last two months.

Instead of running from tear gas, protesters used umbrellas and wooden boards as shields as they moved forward to trap the gas canisters and douse them in water.

Protester pour water onto a traffic cone used to contain tear gas fired by the police in the Admiralty area on Aug 5, 2019. (Photo: AFP / Anthony Wallace)

Protesters were also seen rushing towards the canisters and covering them with traffic cones. 


A protester throws back a tear gas canister in Hong Kong on Aug 5, 2019. (Photo: AP / Vincent Thian)

Protesters have been picking up the tear gas and throwing them back at the police, in addition to the empty water bottles that were more commonly used earlier in the crisis.

A protester prepares to throw bricks at the police using an improvised slingshot in the Admiralty area during a general strike in Hong Kong. (Photo: AFP/Anthony WALLACE)
A protester throw a traffic sign in the district of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on Aug 4, 2019. (Photo: AFP / Philip Fong)

They have also begun pelting the windows of government buildings with eggs, and slinging bricks and other objects from the street such as paving stones and road signs.


A protester spray paints graffiti onto the back of a police van during a demonstration in Yuen Long on Jul 27, 2019. (Photo: AFP / Anthony Wallace)

On top of incorporating everyday items into their defence and offence, demonstrators have also been defacing government buildings, public property and symbols of Chinese rule. 

Over the weekend, demonstrators besieged police stations in flash mob-style actions, spray-painting walls and breaking windows. They reportedly also took China's national flag from flag poles and threw them into Victoria Harbour.

A Chinese flag floats on the surface it was thrown in the water by protesters during a demonstration in Hong Kong on Aug 3, 2019. (Photo: AP / Vincent Thian)

This past week, firefighters were seen putting out flames on the street caused by protesters setting fire to large objects. 

READ: Flagging patience: Colonial emblems divide opinion at Hong Kong protests


A strategy that has been considered new to the protesting stage in Hong Kong, where rallies are a familiar concept, is inspired by the "be water" maxim, that is to flow from place to place, building continuous pressure. 

Protesters have turned up in pockets of resistance across the territory, springing into action in response to arrests or other developments, coordinated through social media.

The tactic has taxed the city's police force, taking a toll on officers who have fought pitched battles with protesters.

READ: "Be water" - A commentary on how the Hong Kong protests became so resilient

Source: AGENCIES/cna/hm/hs


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