Months of disruptive protests are taking their toll on Hong Kong’s public services, pitting those who are supposed to serve and protect against each other, as two incidents in the span of less than a week highlight.
The city’s senior police and firefighter officials had to come up, twice lately, with joint statements on how their men should communicate better and not clash with each other.
The employees in both departments experience “tremendous stress upon working under such chaotic conditions,” the latter of the statements read. It referred to the ongoing violent protests in Hong Kong which kicked off in the summer.
One of the incidents happened Saturday last week as Hong Kong police dispersed protesters on Connaught Road in Central district, according to local media. A tear gas canister fired by the officers accidentally hit a fire truck, which was called to the scene to douse fires that protesters often start with petrol bombs.
The tear gas affected the firefighters inside, and one of them got out to complain. Footage of the confrontation shows a police officer trying to calm down the argument and explain that the hit was accidental, but another policeman suddenly started cursing at the firefighter. The situation rapidly escalated into a shouting match, with police pushing the angry firefighter and using pepper spray on reporters filming the incident.
— The Revolution Times (@revoltimes) November 2, 2019
The second incident – also reported by the Chinese media – involved ambulance paramedics, who work under the Hong Kong Fire Services Department. On Friday night a medic crew arrived at the site of a police operation in Tuen Mun, where a group of protesters erected a roadblock and confronted police.
The argument between the police and the paramedics started after one of the officers accused a paramedic of taking the protesters’ side by telling a group of reporters where they should point their cameras. The police angrily said they would complain to the ambulance staff superiors and were called crooks in response. Again, a heated verbal exchange ensued, with the two groups arguing if there were any injured people around to justify the presence of the paramedics.
The altercation between frontline employees of the police force and the fire services are just an example of how the anti-government protests are taking their toll on Hongkongers. The demonstrations have passed their 24th consecutive weekend with no indication that they will calm down anytime soon.
The protesters accuse the central government in Beijing of trying to encroach on the self-governance privileges of Hong Kong and call on foreign nations, including former colonial overlord Britain, to step in. The radical wing of the protest has disrupted life in the city by vandalizing public transport and local businesses they see as pro-government, causing an economic slowdown.
The Chinese government alleges that the rioting campaign may be fueled by foreign forces. So far it has been reluctant to step in and use mainland police forces to crack down on the demonstrators, which means each weekend city services have to deal with the masked vandals.
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