Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam on Monday apologized to Muslim leaders in the city after police sprayed blue dye at the Kowloon Mosque using a water cannon intended to clear the streets of protesters.
The water cannon was deployed on Kowloon's Nathan Road on Sunday to disperse anti-government protesters, and "colored water was accidentally sprayed at the Kowloon Mosque," the government said in a statement on Monday.
Lam and police commissioner Stephen Lo visited the Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre on Monday, and "offered apologies" for the impact of the operation on the mosque and Muslim community, it said.
"The district commanders of various police districts also proactively engaged local Muslim community today to clarify the incident, reassuring them police never have an intent to offend any religious bodies," the statement said.
Muslim leaders said both Lam and Lo had apologized for the incident, which they described as "a mistake," given that few people were in the area at the time and the water cannon wasn't really needed.
Community leader Saeed Uddin said the community is a peaceful one that hopes to continue in peaceful coexistence with other residents of Hong Kong.
"The mosque wasn't damaged, nothing was damaged, and the only thing that was done wrong has now been apologized for," Saeed Uddin said. "They apologized, and we accepted it."
Police said it was "most unfortunate that the dispersal operation has caused unintended impact on the Kowloon Mosque," it said.
But Mohan Chugani, a former head of the city's Indian Association, who was also hit by blue dye while outside the mosque on Sunday, said he didn't accept the official apology.
"The police must know who is a protester and who is a resident. They have to use their brains and should not fire whenever they see people," Chugani said. "Of course I don't accept it. Why did the water cannon stop outside the mosque?"
"I will not accept [Lam’s apology] ... Why did the water cannon stop at the entrance of the mosque? You can look at the clips, it stopped and then fired. It was intentional, not unintentional," he said.
Marchers defy police
Police fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters who gathered for a march in Kowloon's Tsimshatsui district on Sunday in defiance of a police objection to the gathering.
Tens of thousands of people turned out earlier in the day to protest following a hammer attack on Jimmy Sham, convenor of march organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, last week.
Several journalists were injured during the police clearance action outside Tsimshatsui police station, suffering leg injuries. They had been accused of "obstructing police."
The marchers—many of whom wore masks in defiance of a recent ban under emergency legislation—took up all traffic lanes on Nathan Road from Tsimshatsui to Mong Kok, where protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails into the Mass Transit Rail (MTR) subway station.
Chanting slogans calling for the police force to be disbanded and reformed, protesters set up barricades to protect the crowds from riot police, which police began to clear at around 4.00 p.m.
As in previous protests, some protesters targeted the Bank of China and businesses that had expressed support for the authorities since the anti-extradition movement began in early June.
The Mass Transit Railway shut down Mong Kok, Yaumatei, and Tshimshatsui stations, and announced that most trains would terminate at the earlier time of 10.00 p.m. "to allow for repairs" from previous protests.
The protesters' five key demands are: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.
In recent days, protesters have also begun calling for the current Hong Kong police force to be disbanded, particularly after widespread reports of the sexual abuse and torture of detainees at the hands of police.
Reported by Man Hoi-tsan, Lau Siu-fung, Tseng Lap-yin and Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese and Mandarin Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.