As Hong Kong buckles under increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police in a deepening political crisis, hundreds gathered at the harborfront on Wednesday night for a markedly different kind of protest: a laser show.
Both police and protesters have used intense beams of light against each other, turning often violent episodes into surreal scenes fit for a disco or science fiction.
Demonstrators have aimed lasers towards riot police, irritating them by flashing at their faces as well as their surveillance cameras to counter facial recognition.
Police also used the lights to befuddle and identify protesters, and have flashed strong lights at journalists who accuse them of obstructing their reporting.
On Tuesday a student was arrested for possession of an "offensive weapon" after he was found carrying 10 laser pointers, sparking a late-night protest outside a police station which officers dispersed with tear gas.
In response, Hong Kongers initiated a so-called laser show at the harborfront space museum, euphemistically inviting others to "stargaze" together — which laser pointers can also be used for.
Protesters aimed their laser pens at the dome-shaped museum, which closed early in anticipation of the protest, turning its facade and nearby trees into dizzying, frenetically dancing lights of green, purple and red as the crowds erupted into cheers.
"Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times!" chanted the euphoric crowds, at an hour coinciding with a nightly laser and light show sponsored by the government, also at the harbour.
"I'm so angry, the student was just buying (laser) pens. How can the police arrest him without other evidence or information?" said a 28-year-old designer surnamed Lai.
"We are doing this to tell others that possessing a pen doesn't mean having an offensive weapon, it has other purposes," she said, adding the shop proprietor would also have been arrested if he were selling actual weapons.
Many cars honked in support as they drove by the gathering.
"Catch fire! Catch fire!" many also jeered, mocking a police demonstration earlier in the day seeking to justify the arrest by showing how a laser pointer may induce smoke on paper.
A 33-year-old man surnamed Szeto who joined the protest said the laser beams weren’t deployed by protesters to attack others, but "to protect themselves".
Police on Wednesday condemned protesters' use of "easily invasive laser guns" to target officers, saying the beams have become "stronger and stronger, and their colors are more and more diverse" throughout the protest movement.
"So far, three of our officers received medical treatment after protesters shined laser guns at them," said chief superintendent John Tse.
"Even if the laser is not strong enough to cause injury, strong light exposure can cause flash blind," Tse said, adding laser injuries to the eyes is "mainly at the retina".
Hong Kong is home to 230,000 Filipinos, most of whom are domestic workers, the Philippine Consulate earlier said.
Groups of Filipinos scurried away from the harborfront on Wednesday after realizing that the "stargazing" event is a protest action.
A Filipino over the weekend was mistaken for a protester in a different area and arrested. He was released from detention after posting a bail of HKD 2,000 or roughly P14,000, Germinia Aguilar-Usudan, deputy Philippine consul general in Hong Kong said Tuesday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has warned Filipinos in Hong Kong to stay away from protest areas and refrain from wearing or carry anything that could mistakenly identify them as part of the demonstrations.
With a report from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News