Hong Kong police shoot student amid National Day protests
HONG KONG, Kyodo - Hong Kong riot police shot and injured a protester during anti-government demonstrations across the territory on Tuesday, the 70th anniversary of China's National Day, while dozens of others were also hurt in clashes.
The police confirmed having shot the 18-year-old, reportedly a male high school student, in his left shoulder area, in what marks the first case of its kind since the protests began in June, though warning shots had been fired before.
“A large group of rioters were attacking police officers,” police spokeswoman Yolanda Yu said. “Despite warnings from the police, the assailants still continued (with) the violent attacks, the police officers' lives were under serious threat. To save his own life and his colleagues' lives, he fired a live round at the assailant.”
Police chief Stephen Lo also defended the officer's action, saying the evidence at hand indicated it was a legal and reasonable use of force for self-defense and to protect fellow officers.
“It was in a split second the officer made the judgement to shoot when he found his life under threat as he was under attack at a close range,” Lo told reporters at a later briefing.
Local media said the student was hospitalized in critical condition after being shot in the chest during a clash with police in Tsuen Wan in the New Territories. Footage uploaded online showed him wielding a metal rod at police standing at arm's length when the shot went off.
The Hospital Authority merely confirmed that two of the 66 injured individuals were in critical condition.
More than 180 people were arrested in the day, Lo said, and 25 police officers were injured.
At Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon, police fired two warning shots while trying to save an officer who scuffled with stick-wielding protesters. Three officers were seen leaving with blood on their faces, TVB news footage showed.
Clashes also happened in various other districts including Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island, Wong Tai Sin, Sham Shui Po and Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, and Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun in the New Territories.
Makeshift barriers on roads were set afire by protesters, who sometimes attacked riot police with sticks and petrol bombs, while police fired teargas, pepper balls, rubber bullets and sponge grenades and used water cannon to disperse the crowds.
Earlier in the day, tens of thousands of protesters marched in an ongoing protest against a now-suspended China extradition bill, despite the march being prohibited by police.
“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong!” and “Five demands, not one less!” the crowd, clad in black outfits and mostly wearing facemasks, chanted. “Universal suffrage now!”
“We are out celebrating the national day (of China),” Twistie Luk, a 21-year-old student, said sarcastically.
“The motion to withdraw the bill has nothing to do with (an) answer to all five demands, and the so-called open dialogue (between the government and the public) was just a farce. There is no turning back to normal life now,” she said.
Government leader Carrie Lam's announcement last month of the planned withdrawal of the extradition bill, which would allow the transfer of fugitives to mainland China, has failed to quell the protests that began in June.
Protesters' demands have widened to include an independent inquiry on police use of violent tactics against protesters, pardons for all those arrested and democratic reform.
Subway and light rail services were seriously hampered as more than 40 stations, about half of the whole network, were closed down and some were seriously damaged. About 30 shopping malls were closed in anticipation of chaos.
A fireworks display scheduled at night was canceled two weeks ago, with organizers citing public safety concerns.
The police said they have arrested 51 people since Monday for alleged possession of materials to make petrol bombs and offensive weapons, as well as for other objects used by protesters such as helmets, slingshots and metal beads.
In the morning, political dignitaries attended a cocktail reception after watching a flag-raising ceremony from inside the convention center, also out of concern for safety.
“Ever since Hong Kong's return to our motherland 22 years ago, (the Hong Kong government) has implemented the policy of 'one country, two systems' successfully,” acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said in a speech.
“At the same time, Hong Kong is experiencing social instability. Violence and confrontation are never solutions to problems. To resolve the current acute social conflicts, we need more than ever the solidarity of all Hong Kong people to...seek common ground and accommodate differences,” he said. (Kyodo)