HONG KONG — A teenage protester has been shot with a live police round in Hong Kong, the first such incident since mass demonstrations began in the city in June.
According to the South China Morning Post, the protester was shot in Tsuen Wan in Hong Kong’s New Territories region. A video circulated online by pro-democracy lawmakers and groups appears to show a demonstrator being shot at point-blank range during violent clashes with riot police.
According to multiple media outlets in Hong Kong, the injured protester is in the fifth year of secondary education, which is normally completed by 16-year-olds.
In a video posted on Facebook, Hong Kong's police department confirmed what it called an "open fire incident" had taken place in Tsuen Wan at around 4 p.m. local time.
"A large group of rioters were attacking police officers," the police spokesperson said, according to English subtitles provided on the video. "Despite warnings from the police, the assailants still continued the violent attacks. The police officers’ lives were under serious threat. He fired a live shot at the assailant."
The spokesperson said the protester who was shot was 18 years old, that his "left shoulder area" was injured, and that he was sent to hospital in a conscious state.
"Here we must warn again: All rioters must stop all illegal acts. Police will continue to enforce the law seriously," the spokesperson said in the video.
The citywide protests, which began months ago over a hated extradition bill but have since morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement, are the most direct challenge to the Chinese Communist Party yet — Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. President Xi Jinping presided over a huge military parade on Tuesday, showing off a new ballistic missile that can reportedly reach the United States in 30 minutes.
Police said in a press conference Monday they had intelligence that some protesters were planning to kill police officers and rejected a permit for a planned march on Tuesday. "We are on the verge of extreme danger," said Tse Chun-chung, chief superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch.
Protesters circulated flyers on Telegram calling for rallies in six locations across Hong Kong anyway and went ahead with the march.
Thousands dressed in black walked the miles-long stretch from the shopping centers of Causeway Bay to the more residential area of Sheung Wan. There, some protesters began gathering supplies and then doubled back to the government complex, which has been a flashpoint for the protests for months. Many told BuzzFeed News that the police warnings hadn’t discouraged them from coming out.
“They tried to make us silent but we won’t be silent. Of course, we are scared,” said Michelle Cheng, a 20-year-old university student. She said she was marching because she wanted the government to meet the five demands that protesters have been calling for since June.
“Even though we are scared, it’s our responsibility to come out.”
Police fired tear gas and deployed water cannons with blue dye after protesters created a blockade in front of the government complex in Admiralty and tossed bricks and Molotov cocktails. The water cannons also have tanks to deploy a chemical called pelargonic acid vanillylamide or PAVA, which creates a burning sensation on the skin. As protesters retreated east, police continued charging forward at the front line of protesters, a water cannon rolling along next to them as they fired tear gas. Protesters set a number of fires in the street as one tactic to keep police back.
On the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, tear gas was fired in multiple locations including Wong Tai Sin, Tsuen Wan, and Sha Tin, according to local media.
Authorities had taken proactive measures to block the demonstrations — by Tuesday morning, a number of subway stations had already been shuttered for the day, major malls were closed, and cops and water cannons were stationed near planned meeting points, ready to be deployed.
Still, as early afternoon came, it was clear the warnings did little to stop demonstrators from taking to the streets again to reject China’s encroaching influence on the city.
In recent weeks, Hong Kong has been increasingly plastered with signs that show China’s red flag with its yellow stars rearranged into a swastika and simplified to “Chinazi.” In protests over the weekend, flyers of President Xi were taped to the streets so that protesters walked over his face — tattering them and leaving scuff marks. “Step on me,” some of the English signs instructed.
“We need to fight for our freedom,” said another protester who asked to be identified by her family name Chu and was marching with an “anti-Chinazi” sign. “We will become the winners in the end.”
National Day, also a holiday in Hong Kong, is typically celebrated with a fireworks display and a flag-raising ceremony to honor the date the People’s Republic of China was founded. But as the city has been embroiled in 17 weeks of protests now, the fireworks show was canceled weeks ago and the flag-raising ceremony was done privately Tuesday morning, away from public viewing.
“There is no National Day, only a national tragedy,” protesters said in a new slogan on Tuesday. Flyers for the demonstrations called it a “day of mourning.”
Tuesday’s demonstrations closely followed another weekend of protests that saw some of the heaviest clashes so far. More than 150 were arrested over the weekend, police said.
A video widely circulated on social media showed a police officer firing directly at a group of reporters on Sunday, hitting an Indonesian journalist in the eye with either a rubber bullet or bean bag round. The reporter is “lucky to be alive,” said Michael Vidler, a lawyer for the journalist in a statement.
“Responsibility for this incident lies squarely with the Commissioner of Police who has failed to control the increasingly reckless behavior of some of his officers,” Vidler added.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong also said in a statement that it was deeply concerned about attacks on journalists.
The name of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong was misstated in an earlier version of this post.