Villagers suffer agony of tear-gas
By HEDLEY THOMAS
A PALL of white chemicals seared the eyes, nose, skin and lungs of children, their parents and day-trippers in tiny To Tau Wan village, downwind of the tear-gas raids at Whitehead.
Children playing on the beach screamed in agony as the gas descended on the village just as three Kowloon families were arriving to picnic at the picturesque and usually quiet cove.
None of the residents, some of whom tend market gardens, were warned by authorities that tear-gas might be deployed at Whitehead a few hundred metres away.
Wind swept the tear-gas through the gardens, barbecue pits and along the beach, burning villagers and visitors before they had a chance to flee.
Cheung Koon-lin, 71, a village elder who has lived at To Tau Wan for 30 years, lashed out at police and the CSD for not issuing a warning.
''We were crying from the pain because the smoke filled our village,'' he said.
''Everybody was hurt by it. It was in our eyes and we couldn't see and our skin was burning.
''We have felt tear-gas before, but this was one of the worst times,'' he said.
Florence Lee Hoi-ting, 12, said she was playing with her friend on the beach when the chemicals wafted through the village.
''Our eyes were in pain and the tears flowed down. I ran away and tried to cover my eyes with my shirt and I tripped over,'' she said.
A formal complaint to police and the CSD was made by Sha Tin District Board member Li Po-ming.
''The villagers are angry and say they should have been warned,'' said Mr Li.
''I spoke to the police and they said it was a very urgent case so they couldn't inform the villagers beforehand,'' he said.
Soon after the tear-gas had settled, a South China Morning Post reporter and Mr Cheung were threatened with arrest by Marine Police who intercepted his sampan as it motored in the Tolo Channel to a vantage point near Whitehead.