A battle of lasers, blinding lights between Hong Kong protesters and police

Protesters using lasers outside Yuen Long MTR station last Saturday. Many of the protesters' lasers are focused on police surveillance cameras to stop themselves from being easily identified. Riot police have also used high-powered beams to confuse p
Protesters using lasers outside Yuen Long MTR station last Saturday. Many of the protesters' lasers are focused on police surveillance cameras to stop themselves from being easily identified. Riot police have also used high-powered beams to confuse protesters and prevent the media from covering the clashes.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Among the tools used by both protesters and police on the streets of Hong Kong are high-powered lasers and blinding lights, shone through thick clouds of tear gas to confuse each other and as an additional tool to conceal their identities and activities.

Protesters armed themselves with lasers early on in their nearly three-month-old movement, pointing them into windows during a protest outside the police headquarters to distract and annoy officers.

In recent weeks, the demonstrators have used the lasers to keep pace with a widening dragnet by the authorities.

Front-line protesters - who always cover their faces and sometimes even the brands of their shoes to prevent identification - have focused the strong beams on surveillance cameras to stop themselves from being easily spotted and identified.

As night falls, when peaceful rallies tend to turn chaotic and sometimes violent, protesters point the laser beams at police cameras and at riot officers' shields and faces, turning streets into surreal theatres of coloured flashing lights.

The protests were sparked by fears of a widely unpopular Bill that would allow extraditions to China, and has since grown into something that encompasses wider fears that Beijing exerts ultimate control over Hong Kong.

But it is not just protesters relying on dizzying, high-powered lights for help.

While riot police have used tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray on protesters in recent weeks, they, too, are using lights and beams as tools to easily identify protesters and confuse them.

Some officers pointed high-powered beams at television crews and photographers trying to capture the action as it unfolded - leading to questions about their commitment to the press' freedom to openly cover the clashes without interference.

BLOOMBERG

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'A battle of lasers, blinding lights between protesters and police'. Print Edition | Subscribe