In April 2023, two men were arrested for shooting water guns at police officers during the Songkran water festival. The festival had taken place on 9 April 2023 in Kowloon City, an area of Hong Kong nicknamed “Little Thailand” for its large number of ethnic Thai residents. In Thai traditions, it is customary to celebrate the Thai New Year with a water splashing festival to wash away bad luck.
On 10 April 2023, a YouTube channel called “Bravedogdog” posted several videos showing revellers at the Songkran festival firing water guns at police officers and journalists from TVB News (a local channel which is widely considered pro-government). On 12 April 2023, state-backed paper Ta Kung Pao published a column by pro-Beijing columnist Chris Wat mentioning the YouTube channel. She said the men had “maliciously targeted” police and TVB reporters. She believed that they “pretended to splash water but were actually stirring up trouble” and that if there were no ramifications for their actions, it may lead to a resurgence of the 2019 protests.
Later on the same day, two men were arrested by police for causing disorder in a public place. A police spokesperson said they “intended and had attempted to breach public peace” and then posted a video with “seditious wording”. The police would not rule out that the incident was planned in advance and further arrests were possible. Secretary for Security Chris Tang said precautions must be taken to stop people from using culture and media to “make derogatory remarks against the nation with misleading allegations and incite people’s dissatisfaction towards the government or the country.”
As noted by a retired police superintendent, this incident was not the first time that police had water thrown at them during Songkran, but the authorities now appear to be taking a significantly harder line. What had been acceptable and allowed in the past, such as spraying water at the police during the water-splashing festival, may now become a matter of “national security” and deemed illegal.
(This story originally appeared in the March-April 2023 edition of our newsletter).