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Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong to urge US to stop exporting tear gas



A Hong Kong activist who has become the face of the city’s pro-democracy movement is traveling to Washington, DC, to urge lawmakers to stop exporting Pennsylvania-made tear gas to Hong Kong police.

“It’s a must for the US government to stop the export of riot weapons to Hong Kong’s police force — especially tear gas and rubber bullets. All are used by Hong Kong’s police force and purchased in Pennsylvania,” Joshua Wong told Business Insider in an interview in New York City.

Hong Kong authorities have made international headlines in recent months following violent clashes with protesters. Police forces have often used non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets, water cannons, and volleys of tear gas to disperse the immense crowds of protesters that have taken to the streets in recent months.

Images of the tear gas canisters have circulated on social media, showing labels revealing that the weapons were manufactured in Homer City, Pennsylvania, by the company Nonlethal Technologies.

Some US lawmakers have expressed outrage over the developments and announced a bill last week that would ban sales of riot-control equipment to Hong Kong authorities.

“In the last several weeks of protests, Hong Kong police have used tear gas extensively to disperse protesters. They have also used rubber bullets (including allegedly at close range) and beat protesters with batons, inconsistent with acceptable norms of treatment of civilians by law enforcement,” a bipartisan group of senators wrote in a September 10 letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The letter continued: “The United Kingdom has suspended licenses for export of such equipment to Hong Kong, and we believe similar steps by the United States are warranted.”

Activists have reported police brutality, beatings, and mass arrests — even of a child as young as 12

Anti-government protester throws back a tear gas canister fired by the police during a demonstration near Central Government Complex in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019.
Associated Press/Kin Cheung

Protests in Hong Kong have raged throughout the summer, sparked by a proposed debate by the city’s Legislative Council over a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed authorities in mainland China to extradite residents for criminal trials.

Read more: The Hong Kong activist who became the face of the 2014 Umbrella Movement has been arrested in a new crackdown on protest leaders

Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s government withdrew the incendiary bill after months of protests. Still, activists, including Wong, said the move was ” too little, too late” and would press on with their demands that Hong Kong investigates incidents of police brutality against protesters, releases imprisoned activists, and holds fully democratic elections.

Wong, who was arrested by Hong Kong police two weeks ago, told Business Insider he has been treated relatively well in police custody compared to his fellow activists, some of whom have been jailed for lengthy terms or reported being beaten or brutalized in police custody.

A riot police officer fires tear gas during an anti-government demonstration near the Central Government Complex in Hong Kong, China, September 15, 2019.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

“No one loves to be jailed or hopes to be jailed, but the price I pay is really small compared to those spending six years in prison,” he said. “Because of [my] prominent status, they [have to] be more aware, be careful to deal with me.”

Read more: Hong Kong protesters have developed a sophisticated sign language to help in their months-long battle with police

Hong Kong police have arrested over 1,300 people on protest-related charges, according to Bloomberg— one of them as young as 12 years old.

The city’s authorities have defended their actions by accusing the protesters, in turn, of using violent tactics and weapons such as bricks, sticks, and gas bombs.

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