UPDATED at 2:25 P.M. ET on 2019-10-01
A teenage protester is in critical condition in hospital after being shot by police with live ammunition during mass anti-China protests on the 70th anniversary of Chinese Communist Party rule.
Multiple media reports and social media accounts posted video showing protesters flailing at armed riot police with batons and sticks during clashes in the New Territories town of Tsuen Wan.
The officer is shown in the video pointing a handgun at the boy, a secondary school student, before a shot rings out and the boy slumps to the ground.
Social media posts from the scene on Tsuen Wan’s Hau Tei Square said the boy, who is believed to be around 15 years old, was conscious, and shouted out that his chest hurt, while bleeding from a wound to the chest.
“My chest hurts a lot,” the boy shouts in the video along with his full name and identity card number before being taken away by ambulance.
Other video clips showed that he had been part of a group of young, masked protesters who were beating an officer on the ground with rods and sticks, and that the shooting had happened shortly afterwards.
The video shows the officer apparently firing from very close range, before police leave the scene rapidly as a Molotov cocktail is flung in their direction.
Tam Man-kei, Hong Kong director of the London-based rights group Amnesty International, called for an immediate inquiry into the shooting, saying the teenager had been left “fighting for his life.”
“The shooting of a protester marks an alarming development in the Hong Kong police’s response to protests,” Tam said.
“The Hong Kong authorities must launch a prompt and effective investigation into the sequence of events that left a teenager fighting for his life in hospital.”
Investigate the police
Tam called on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to “urgently review” its policing strategy.
The Hong Kong Police Force confirmed that the shooting had taken place.
“As an officer felt his life was under serious threat, he fired a round at the assailant to save his own life and his colleagues’ lives,” the police said in a brief video statement.
Amnesty has repeatedly called for an independent and effective investigation into police use of force since protests escalated in early June, including alleged torture and other ill-treatment in detention.
“Failure to address previous excessive use of force contributed to the current escalation in violence,” the group said, citing United Nationsguidelines as saying that firearms may only be used to protect against an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.
A spokesman for the Hospital Authority confirmed that a male was in critical condition and had been treated for injuries at Princess Margaret Hospital, but declined to give further details.
“There was a male taken to Princess Margaret Hospital who was critical,” the spokesman said. “I don’t know his age, though, and I’m not allowed to give out specific injuries of patient’s injuries.”
RTHK said the boy was later transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for emergency surgery.
As of 5.15 p.m. local time, 15 people had been taken to hospital with injuries, the authority said. One protester was seen lying on the ground with injuries near a taxi, which witnesses said had driven into him.
Live rounds were also heard in Yaumatei district after protesters surrounded a group of officers and began beating them, RTHK reported.
Live TV footage showed two officers with head injuries getting into a police van, as a Molotov cocktail is thrown at the vehicle, it said.
“Riot police were seen pointing their guns at protesters at close range and the crowd then fled towards Nathan Road,” the station reported, adding that two masked men in plain clothes were seen joining the police, suggesting that they had been operating under cover during the melee.
Dozens of arrests
Protesters clashed with police across Hong Kong, while dozens of subway stations were shut down by the Mass Transit Railway Corp., including the entire Tsuen Wan line, local media reported.
Police made dozens of arrests, and also pepper-sprayed passers-by and bystanders, chasing them away from the scene with batons, according to live-streamed video footage. Local residents frequently shouted insults at police, including calling them a “criminal gang.”
As the ruling Chinese Communist Party celebrated 70 years in power with a massive military parade in Beijing, Hong Kong police were warning residents not to go out, amid widespread “rioting acts” across the city.
“Rioters have started fires and committed mass property damage, injuring many people,” the police said in a public video announcement posted to their official Facebook page.
“The police urgently appeal to every member of the public to stay in safe places, avoid going outdoors and stay tuned to the latest situation,” the statement said.
Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, whose application for an approved march on Tuesday was turned down by police, said the refusal to allow a peaceful protest to go ahead had coincided with a deteriorating human rights situation in Hong Kong.
“Citizens have come up with their own response to the ban on the Oct. 1 march, and are making their demands known,” Sham said on the eve of the march. “All the Civil Human Rights Front can do is tell citizens to stay safe, from the bottom of our hearts.”
Protests that erupted in June in against plans by Hong Kong’s government to allow extradition to mainland China have grown into a broader movement, even after Lam pledged to scrap the plan by withdrawing the planned legislation.
The protesters’ five key demands are: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.
Reported by Lau Siu-fung, Wong Lok-to, Gao Feng and Zheng Chongsheng for RFA’s Cantonese and Mandarin Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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