Police fired at least 10 rounds of rubber bullets without warning at anti-extradition bill protesters outside Hong Kong’s legislature on June 12, despite claiming that only “a few rounds” were used.
Protests turned into chaos when demonstrators attempted to storm police lines outside the Legco at around 3:30pm that day, while police responded with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets.
In the aftermath, police claimed that only “a few rounds” of rubber bullets were fired, without specifying the exact number.
However, FactWire has found that police fired at least 10 rounds of rubber bullets at protesters during the June 12 clashes, after reviewing 198 clips of news footage, which total over 98 hours, filmed between 3pm and 1am the next day.
All of the shots were also fired without raising any orange flag within 15 minutes before firing to warn of the use of rubber bullets or giving out verbal warning, the footage shows.
The first three rounds of rubber bullets were fired at Tim Wa Avenue, including two fired at 4:15pm and one at 4:27pm, when anti-riot officers from the Special Technical Squad pushed hundreds of protesters back to Harcourt Road. The rounds were fired from 40mm Single Shot Launcher Compact.
As police were locked into a standoff with protesters, seven more rounds were fired between 5:21pm and 5:37pm in the same area, including five that were clearly captured by camera and two deduced from the sound of gunshots and footage showing officers armed with the launchers.
Four more gunshots was heard between 9:48pm and 9:58pm at the junction of Queenway and Hennessy Road, where riot police were captured pointing the same type of 40mm launchers at protesters.
Although the type of launcher can fire both tear gas or rubber bullets, there was no smoke at the scene. Officers in the area at the time were also not armed with Remington 870 shotguns, which can fire both beanbag or rubber bullet rounds.
Police also fired at least eight arounds from Remington shotguns after the clashes started at Legco complex’s protest area at 3:41pm, although it was unclear whether the projectiles were beanbags or rubber bullets.
Factwire has only reviewed video footage taken around Harcourt Road, Tim Mei Avenue, Legislative Council Road, Tim Wa Avenue, Queensway and Hennessy Road during the day, and was unable to count the usage of other anti-riot ammunition including pepper balls and tear gas canisters.
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council on the morning of June 12 in an attempt to prevent a debate of the controversial proposed extradition law. The protests descended into chaos when police fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets as protesters stormed police lines at Legco complex’s protest area at around 3:30pm.
At least 79 people were injured during the clashes, including a RTHK driver whose heart momentarily stopped after being hit by a tear gas canister.
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said in a press conference the next day that police officers had used over 150 rounds of tear gas ammunition, “a few” rubber bullets and around 20 beanbag rounds, adding that the figures were only preliminary.
The police have yet to provide their final figures 44 days after the June 12 clashes. They also did not respond to an enquiry from FactWire on the exact figures.
Meanwhile, police said in a press conference on Thursday (July 25) that they deployed a number of “sponge grenades” that are officially known as 40mm React Round during the clashes in Sheung Wan on July 21. However, footage reviewed by FactWire shows that the rounds had previously been used during the June 12 protests, although it was never mentioned by the police.
Former police superintendent Clement Lai Ka-chi told FactWire that the 40mm React Round was a type of rubber bullet made of plastic and that he had never heard the police force describe it as “sponge grenade”.
Footage on June 12 shows that police were armed with 40mm launchers that were loaded with similar 40mm React Round ammunition seen in the Sheung Wan clashes. Police also fired smaller 12 ga Rubber Rocket rubber bullets from Remington 870 shotguns on June 12.