Hong Kong leaders apologize for water cannon use at mosque

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Hong Kong officials apologized to Muslim leaders Monday after riot police sprayed a mosque and bystanders with a water cannon while trying to contain pro-democracy demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and its police chief visited the Kowloon Mosque to apologize to the chief imam and Muslim community leaders.

They left without commenting, but mosque leaders told reporters that the officials had apologized.

“Our mosque is not damaged, nothing is done wrong. Only thing is that they should have not done it. For that they apologized so we accept it,” said Saeed Uddin, honorary secretary of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong.

Police also apologized later at a daily press briefing.

“To any people or any groups that were affected, we offer our genuine apologies,” said Cheuk Hau-yip, the Kowloon West regional commander. “We certainly do not have any malicious intent.

During Sunday’s protest, a police water cannon truck that was passing by the mosque sprayed a stinging blue-dyed liquid at a handful of people standing in front of the mosque’s gate, according to video of the incident by pro-democracy lawmaker Jeremy Tam.

The mosque’s front steps, metal gate and sidewalk outside were stained with the blue liquid while people caught in the plume were left gagging, coughing and trying to rinse the solution from their eyes, the video shows.

Volunteers later arrived to help clean up, and by Monday morning the blue coating was largely gone.

Tam said on his Facebook page that he and two other people, an Indian businessman and the head of a charity for ethnic minorities, went to the hospital to check for injuries.

Local broadcaster RTHK reported that the people outside the mosque were there to guard it.

Hong Kong authorities scrambled to minimize the fallout from the incident, which protesters seized on as the latest example of what they call unnecessarily harsh police tactics.