Pepper spray cans more powerful, police admit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am


Police have admitted using canisters with more powerful jets to douse protesters with pepper spray during President Hu Jintao's visit, but insist they did not breach safety guidelines.

Assistant police commissioner Winnie Chiu Wai-yin at first told the Legislative Council's security panel that the canisters used outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday were no more powerful than smaller ones used at previous protests, as the ingredients and concentration of the pepper foam were the same.

But under questioning she admitted the new canisters had a longer range - five metres. 'Of course when it can spray further the pressure [felt by the target] will be more than with a normal canister,' she said.

Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan demanded the force send samples of both cans to a laboratory for analysis. But Chiu said details of the spray would not be disclosed.

Lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said he had read in the manual for the canisters that the spray should not be used on a target less than three metres away, but Chiu said there was no such guideline and the spray could be used at any distance up to five metres.

A copy of an e-mail purportedly from the canisters' American manufacturer, Sabre, and circulated widely on the internet, says the product should not be fired at a distance of less than three feet (91cm) due to 'possible damage to soft body tissue caused by the hypodermic needle effect'.

Protesters said on Saturday that they believed the pepper spray used on them was more powerful than at previous protests.