Activists in Hong Kong are speaking against the use of an anti-riot sound device that the local authorities have started using against protesters.
The controversial device, which emits a low-frequency “woo-woo” sound, has been called a weapon by critics as it allegedly causes significant harm when used, South China Morning Post reports.
Purchased by the Hong Kong police 10 years ago, the long-range acoustic device (LRAD) was used for the first time on Sunday near Polytechnic University in Hung Hom. Reporters covering the demonstrations in the area claimed that they heard the device’s sound from a police armored vehicle.
Icarus Wong Ho-yin of Civil Rights Observer expressed skepticism over the safety of the device as he noted that LRADs used by the New York Police Department had caused dizziness and nausea among protesters.
“The NYPD also said it was not a weapon but protesters felt sick after exposure. And the device may fit the definition of a weapon because of this,” Wong noted.
Meanwhile, a representative of the police force confirmed that an LRAD unit was indeed installed on top of a Unimog armored vehicle to issue warnings to demonstrators.
The spokesperson denied that the device was a weapon but a broadcasting system used to deliver important messages over a long distance in a noisy environment.
“Unlike what is said in individual media reports, the LRAD does not generate ultra-low frequency sound which will cause dizziness, nausea or a loss of sense of direction,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.
He explained that using the system requires adherence to strict guidelines and regulations.
Meanwhile, a BBC report
pointed out in 2007 that the LRAD can indeed be used as a weapon, calling it an effective “sonic weapon.”
Two LRADs with the capability of transmitting sound from a distance of about a thousand feet and the Unimog were purchased by the Hong Kong government in 2009. Earlier reports on the device noted that it has an “alert tone” function that works like a siren used by police and the fire service. The frequency is reportedly within the normal human hearing range.
Protesters have occupied Polytechnic University for over a week. The police claim that around 800 have already left the campus, leaving only 60-100 protesters inside, as of the fourth day of a standoff between the authorities and protesters.