Hold Mercedes-Benz accountable for their complicity in Hong Kong police brutality

3 min readJul 14, 2020

Water cannons were first used for crowd control in Germany in the 1930’s, an ominous time in world history. Of late, they have been deployed to injure peaceful demonstrators in Turkey’s Gezi protests (using chemical-laced liquid), scatter Palestinian protesters in Israel (using blue dye) and track suspected insurgents in Afghanistan (using an invisible dye appearing only under UV light).

In 2018 the South China Morning Post reported that the Hong Kong Police Force (the “HKPF”) acquired three Mercedes-Benz armored vehicles equipped with water cannons for crowd-control purposes. HKPF reportedly spent $2.11 million on the vehicles. HK01, an online Hong Kong news outlet, also reported the news.

Each truck is armed with a whopping 15 water cannons, with a maximum output of 20 liters/second. The cannons can blast targets 50 meters away.

Although advertised as non-lethal, in 2016 a 67-year-old Korean man died after sustaining injuries from a similar weapon. In 2010, a water cannon blinded a Stuttgart man in both eyes.

Deitrich Wagner, after being hit in the face by a water cannon at an environmental protest in 2010

Since the passage of the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30th, 2020, the HKPF have repeatedly used the crowd control vehicles to target journalists and peaceful protesters:

Journalist blasted in the head while standing still
Journalist targeted by a passing truck
Water cannon directed at a crowd of pedestrians

In 2019, HKPF assistant commissioner Mak Chin-ho said in a briefing that the water cannons would only be used when protests were liable to cause serious injury, death, or a serious threat to public order. The HKPF stated that the water cannons would only be aimed at protesters’ lower limbs.

In light of the video evidence presented above, the HKPF has clearly failed to live up to its own commitments.

It is possible that Mercedes was unaware of the brutal way the trucks would be used when the procurement was completed. The HKPF have now made it clear that these vehicles are not simply intended for countering violent protesters.

Therefore, Mercedes must to commit to the following:

  • Stop selling these or similar vehicles to the HKPF or any entities involved in public security enforcement in Hong Kong
  • Terminate after sales support, including provision of spare parts, for the water cannon vehicles already in Hong Kong
  • Revise corporate policy to ensure that no vehicles are delivered to businesses that plan to install weaponry upon them
  • If HKPF did not acquire the vehicles directly from Mercedes, then terminate the relationship with the intermediate buyer

Mercedes’ failure to make these commitments amounts to endorsing police brutality against journalists and peaceful protesters. Given Mercedes’ reliance on the China market, they have unsurprisingly remained silent on this issue.

According to a September 2019 report from the German news outlet Bild, a spokesperson from Daimler (Mercedes) denied any responsibility for misuse of the trucks, stating that they merely sold the chassis to a 3rd party in France who then presumably outfitted them with water cannons and resold them to HKPF. This response falls dangerously short for a multinational corporation whose products have been used to endanger the lives of journalists and peaceful protesters. Mercedes must take steps to ensure that its intermediate customers are not reselling to end users who then go on to commit human rights abuses.

Until Mercedes commits to the actions listed above, consumers should reconsider their purchase of Mercedes-Benz automobiles — the profit they earn from consumer sales may in part be used for the research, development, and support of crowd control products which endanger innocent lives.

If Mercedes fails to make these commitments by midnight on July 31st Central European Time, we plan to organize protests at Mercedes’ retail locations to raise awareness about the company’s complicity in Hong Kong’s police brutality.

Stand with the people of Hong Kong in boycotting Mercedes until the company takes a stance against police brutality.

#BoycottBenz #StandWithHongKong




Lover of languages. 中文 / 日本語 / español. Hoping for a better future for US and China.