In Hong Kong, protesters use traffic cones as a shield against tear gas

Protesters in Hong Kong have been using traffic cones to counter tear gas. (Photo on the left by Antony Dapiran; image (screengrab) on the right by Alex Hofford).
Protesters in Hong Kong have been using traffic cones to counter tear gas. (Photo on the left by Antony Dapiran; image (screengrab) on the right by Alex Hofford).

As the clampdown on anti-government protests in Hong Kong continues, protesters have been coming up with ingenious ways to counter the widespread use of tear gas by the police. The newest strategy involves using a traffic cone to stop gas from spreading.

Since June, millions of people have taken to the streets in Hong Kong to protest against the pro-Chinese government. In recent weeks, clashes between police and demonstrators have grown increasingly violent. Social media has been filled with striking images of protesters working in perfect coordination to neutralise the tear gas used against them. The builders' hard hats worn by protesters to protect themselves from projectiles have become an iconic image of the protests in the way that umbrellas came to symbolise protests in 2014.

On July 28, police used tear gas in an attempt to disperse tens of thousands of protestors taking part in an unauthorised march. Videos posted on social media captured the rapid, coordinated response from some groups of protesters. One of these videos was filmed by Antony Dapiran, an Australian lawyer living in Hong Kong.

The protester 'firefighter' teams, as Dapiran calls them, manage to stop the smoke released by tear gas grenades from spreading. He told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that these protesters "have been developing these tactics over the last few weeks, and every week they get better organised. I don’t feel unsafe with the tear gas. Actually, none of the young protesters fear the tear gas now."

The secret weapon used by these firefighters is a simple traffic cone. They put it over the tear gas canister to keep the smoke from spreading and to create a kind of chimney. Then they pour water into the cone to douse the shell.


"It’s better than throwing the canisters back at police”

Hong Kong Hermit is a blogger from Hong Kong who is taking part in the protests. He says that the protesters have had to come up with creative solutions because the police have been using tear gas on a massive scale.


On July 28, the police were setting off tear gas from 7pm to 11:30pm almost non-stop. There was so much that it became vital to reduce the amount of tear gas in the air.

There was so much in the air that even my protective goggles weren’t enough and people three streets over were feeling the effects of it. Protesters were telling residents of nearby buildings to shut their windows and turn off their air conditioning units to keep the gas from coming into their homes. The local people were another reason that we wanted to stop the gas from being released, instead of just throwing the canisters back at the police.

The traffic cone technique is much better than grabbing the hot canisters and throwing them back at the police. If the wind is against us -- as was the case on Sunday -- the gas always ends up wafting back over the protesters and, by that point, the canister is too close to the police for the protesters to be able to douse it with water.

Big empty water fountain bottles are also used to contain smoke. If all else fails, then protesters throw wet clothes on top of the canisters.

The protests were called to denounce a violent attack on activists that took place a week ago, by men thought to be gang members. Authorities reported that 45 people were injured during the attack, which took place in a subway station as activists were leaving a demonstration.

Hong Kong has been locked in crisis since June 9 when protesters first gathered to oppose a proposed law that would authorise extraditions to China. The bill has since been suspended but the protests have continued, at times with millions of participants. The protesters’ demands have grown to include democratic reforms and an end to an increasingly large Chinese influence over domestic affairs in Hong Kong.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: ‘Do it!’ Photographer who taunted Hong Kong police during protests goes viral

Article written by Pierre Hamdi.