Hong Kong police dealing with anti-government protests have been armed with higher-level, lethal rifles in recent days, as radical protesters have stepped up their violence and use of weapons.
The mobs occupying universities have not only hurled bricks, metal poles and corrosive acid at police, but also used large quantities of petrol bombs, bows and arrows, as well as catapults.
An officer was pierced in the calf by an arrow outside Polytechnic University on Sunday. Another policeman was hit by a metal ball. The mob rained petrol bombs on police, and even set an armoured riot-control truck ablaze. When a vehicle tried ramming into a group of officers, police responded by firing a live round.
Officers have been seen drawing their rifles and submachine guns. The Post was told that snipers and ground squad members from the elite group – Special Duties Unit (SDU) – have been deployed too.
When the radicals began using bows and arrows, regional commander of Kowloon West, Michael Cheuk Hau-yip, noted that these were long-range weapons and warned them not to test police. “If we have to respond, I believe the only option will be to use deadly weapons, because arrows are lethal,” he said.
On Tuesday, Senior Superintendent Wong Wai-shun said the force would rely on appropriate weapons needed to curb the violence.
What weapons have police used most?
As of Sunday, police have fired 19 live rounds, hitting three students in the chest, thigh and abdomen respectively.
A common sight at the front line are the 38mm-calibre Federal Riot Guns, nicknamed “bigmouth guns”, used to fire tear gas canisters. The American-made riot weapons have an effective range of up to 70 metres.
Other weapons used regularly are the pepper ball launcher Tippmann 98 Custom Platinum Basic, with a range of over 45 metres, and the Remington 870 shotgun, which can be loaded with beanbag rounds and rubber bullets.
Which seldom seen weapons with live rounds are police using now?
Officers have begun drawing Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifles at violent mobs. The American-made weapon can be loaded with 20 5.56×45mm rounds and is a standard weapon of Police Tactical Unit and Airport Security Unit officers. It can only be fired with approval, and is used as a last resort in situations which are assessed to be serious enough to be uncontrollable or result in severe casualties. The rifle has an effective firing range of 550 metres.