In the statement issued by the government, Carrie Lam said Hong Kong’s Muslim community called the city home and had always co-existed peacefully with other communities.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam apologized to the city’s Muslim community on Monday after police fired a water cannon at a major mosque during operations on Sunday night to quell violent pro-democracy protests in the Asian financial hub.
While the morning after cleanup was underway, Lam visited the mosque in Kowloon district, her head covered by a shawl, to express her sorrow to Muslim leaders over the incident.
The Hong Kong leader was due to depart for Japan to attend Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony, and a government statement released later said Lam thanked Muslim leaders for repeatedly calling for calm during the political turmoil that has gripped the city in past five months.
During running battles in Kowloon on Sunday, police used tear gas and water cannon trucks to disperse petrol bomb-throwing protesters, spraying jets of blue dye into the crowds.
In one instance, a cannon drenched the front gate and footpath in front of the Kowloon mosque, Hong Kong’s most important Islamic place of worship where a few people had gathered including journalists.
Blue stains from the dyed water remained on the road in front as worshipers gathered for prayers on Monday.
Protesters had said they would not target the mosque in Sunday’s march after a leading pro-democracy leader was brutally attacked by masked men last week that the police said were “non-Chinese”.
Some non-Chinese residents including those from South Asia have been recruited in the past by the city’s organized criminal gangs, or triads, to attack individuals.
In the statement issued by the government, Lam said Hong Kong’s Muslim community called the city home and had always co-existed peacefully with other communities.
Chief Imam Muhammad Arshad said Lam’s apology was “accepted” and that the Islamic community hoped to continue living in Hong Kong in peace.
Police said in a statement the mosque had been accidentally sprayed and that they “respect religious freedom and will strive to protect all places of worship.”
Many people in Hong Kong are angry at what they see as mainland China’s attempts to limit the freedoms the semi-autonomous city is supposed to enjoy under the “one country, two systems” principle enshrined in its handover from Britain in 1997.