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Protesters light up Hong Kong Space Museum with lasers to protest student's arrest

Protesters light up Hong Kong Space Museum with lasers to protest student's arrest

Protesters point lasers at the Space Museum during a demonstration in Hong Kong on August 7, 2019, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has quickly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reforms. (Photo: AFP/Philip FONG)

HONG KONG: Hundreds of protesters with laser pointers gathered to create a light show at the Hong Kong Space Museum on Wednesday (Aug 7), to protest the arrest of a student for buying laser lights the night before.

Hong Kong police called the pointers "offensive weapons", demonstrating at a press briefing earlier Wednesday how the laser beams are strong enough to burn paper.

Gathering outside the museum, protesters created a dizzying, frenetic laser display across the dome-shaped facade of the museum - which closed early in anticipation of the protest -  and tried to use the lasers to burn through paper, in a bid to denounce authorities' claims.

The display comes in the wake of Tuesday's arrest of a Baptist University student for buying laser pointers - a tool many protesters have used on police officers in an attempt to temporarily blind them.

"Our officers went on foot patrol, intercepted a male and found in his possession 10 laser guns. He was then arrested for possession of offensive weapons," chief superintendent John Tse Chun-chung had said.

"Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times," chanted the crowds outside the museum.

"I'm so angry, the student was just buying (laser) pens. How can the police arrest him without other evidence or information?" said a 28-year-old designer surnamed Lai.

"We are doing this to tell others that possessing a pen doesn't mean having an offensive weapon, it has other purposes," she said, adding the shop proprietor would also have been arrested if he were selling actual weapons.

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

Many cars honked in support as they drove by the gathering.

"Catch fire! Catch fire!" many also jeered, mocking the police's earlier demonstration.

In contrast to the escalating violence over the last few weeks, the atmosphere at the Space Museum was light-hearted, as people projected slogans on the wall of the museum and used their hands to make shadow animals.

Police on Wednesday condemned protesters' use of "easily invasive laser guns" to target officers, saying the beams have become "stronger and stronger, and their colours are more and more diverse" throughout the protest movement.

"So far, three of our officers received medical treatment after protesters shined laser guns at them," said chief superintendent John Tse.

"Even if the laser is not strong enough to cause injury, strong light exposure can cause flash (blindness)," Tse said, adding laser injuries to the eyes is "mainly at the retina".

Journalists have also hit out at police for obstructing press freedom with the beams.

"Police have continued to obstruct reporting by aiming high beam lights at cameras," the Hong Kong Journalists' Association said in a statement on Tuesday.

After news of the student's arrest broke last night, hundreds of protesters surrounded Sham Shui Po police station, with the crowd swelling as the night went on. 

At around 11.30pm, police officers fired tear gas to try and disperse the crowd outside the station. Police also detained several protesters.

"They hurled bricks and glass bottles into the station and sprayed paint on the outer walls, causing multiple damages," Tse said. 

"Their acts put the officers and our citizens in danger. As a result, we deployed tear gas to disperse the protesters and restored order at around 2am."

Source: AGENCIES/nh(aj)

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