Standards and specifications of arms and ammunitions and arms commonly used by the police during dispersal at the protests state they could cause serious injuries or death if not fired within range.
Rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and tear gas rounds that categorized as “low-risk” could also pose lethal risks to opponents if they impacted their heads during open fire. At least four reporters were hit by the police in the head since the protests began in June.
On August 11, the police employed pepperball guns to shoot escaping protesters at a close range on an escalator of Exit C, Tai Koo Station, an incident that had been called into question and even described as “executions” shooting by the public.
Pepperball projectiles are not a lethal weapon, said Mak Chin-ho, Assistant Police Commissioner at a press conference a day later. Mak stressed that that the police have strict regulations on weapons for shooting and would review for the range of the pepperball launcher.
On August 19, Fang Chi-kin, Superintendent (Operations), said disclosing the standards and specifications of ammunitions will affect their tactical manoeuvring strategies. However, given wide public concern, review results show the pepperball projectiles were shot at about 1m to 2m from the protesters, which was in line with the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.
Pepperball launcher Tippmann 98 Custom Platinum Basic was made by US company Tippmann Sports LLC. The guidelines stated that the gun uses compressed air, nitrogen or carbon dioxide to fire bullets with a range of over 45 metres. However, the safety warning also states that users should “avoid shooting an opponent at point blank (six feet or less)”. Six feet equals to roughly 1.8 metres.
FactWire tried to factcheck the shooting distance and found that the special tactical squad member holding a pepperball launcher tried to pull a protester from a group of people squeezing onto an escalator, but to no avail. He then took three steps back and fired at least eight pepperball rounds towards the group while stepping forward twice.
Known as LIVE-X, pepperballs used by the police were manufactured by a US company. LIVE-X is a round ball the size of a marble in red and black, while regular PepperBall LIVE rounds are red and white in color. One round of LIVE-X contains PAVA irritant chemical agent that is equivalent to that in 10 regular PepperBall LIVE rounds.
Those exposed to PAVA capsaicin will feel a burning pain on their skin and respiratory tract.
A woman was shot in the eye on August 11. Multiple media footages show a bean bag round wielded at the woman’s goggles as she fell. The bean bag round resembles Model 2581 12 GA Super Sock, a bean bag round used by the police.
The bean bag rounds are produced by another US company called Combined Tactical Systems. The police use Remington 870 shotgun to fire the Model 2581 12GA Super Sock bean bag rounds.
With a range of 25 metres, serious injuries or death may be caused if it is shot at the head, neck, thorax, heart or spine.
At least four reporters were hit by the police in the head, including Stephen McDonell, BBC’s correspondent in China, since the protests began in June.
On August 5, McDonell said his goggles were hit by the police with a tear gas canister or a rubber bullet.
Known as the 37MM tear gas canisters, the tear gas canisters used by the police were manufactured by NonLethal Technologies in the US. The manufacturer stated that the canister cannot be fired directly at an opponent or it will cause serious injuries or death.
As for projectiles containing hard rubber batons, NonLethal Technologies also stated that it cannot be fired at point blank or else may cause death.
The police have been firing rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, sponge rounds and tear gas rounds multiple times during dispersal at the protests. Last Sunday, a special tactical squad member continuously fired sponge rounds while chasing a protester outside a shopping mall in Tsuen Wan, New Territories. Footage from the Editorial Board of City University of Hong Kong shows how another person had been standing by the road during the chase.
The police must exercise self-control, critically assess whether nearby civilians could be hurt before opening fire and refrain from shooting if they could be injured, a force procedure manual from the Hong Kong Police College states. Under no circumstances should the police perform violent acts as a form of punishment or revenge, according to the police general order.