Laoshi/iStock(HONG KONG) — An 18-year-old anti-government protester was shot by a police officer in Hong Kong on Tuesday afternoon as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on China’s National Day.
Hong Kong police have been known to fire live rounds into the air as warnings since the protest movement began in June, but this was the first time a demonstrator was shot by police.
Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Police Force, defended the shooting in a brief video statement posted to Facebook, saying the officer “felt his life was under serious threat” as a “large group of rioters attacked police officers” in Tsuen Wan district.
The officer fired a round of live ammunition “to save his own life and his colleagues’ lives.” The bullet struck an 18-year-old, who has not been identified, in his left shoulder.
“The police force really did not want to see anyone being injured, so we feel very sad about this,” she added. “We warn rioters to stop breaking the law immediately, as we will strictly enforce the law.”
The wounded teenager was taken to Princess Margaret Hospital for treatment, according to Hoi-kwan. A spokesperson for Princess Margaret Hospital told ABC News that an injured patient was admitted Tuesday in critical condition. The spokesperson could not confirm whether that patient had been shot during the protests.
The protests began in early June when hundreds of thousands of mostly young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, to be sent to mainland China for trial. Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has since withdrawn the bill, but widespread unrest has continued as demonstrators broaden their demands to include a call for direct elections for the city’s leaders, amnesty for protesters and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
Although Tuesday’s demonstrations were largely peaceful, there were several violent clashes between protesters and police. Officers used tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the huge crowds, while some protesters hurled back tear gas canisters, petrol bombs and bricks.
A statement from the Hong Kong government’s public relations office urged all members of the public to stay in safe places and avoid going outside because the “rioters have set fires and committed mass property damage, injuring many people.”
It’s unclear how many others were injured Tuesday and how many arrests were made.
Meanwhile in Beijing, the Chinese government put on a massive and colorful military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China. Some 15,000 soldiers marched across Tiananmen Square, in the heart of the capital, where rows of tanks and ballistic missiles were on display, while fighter jets flew overhead.
During his nationally televised speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stability in Hong Kong and the “complete unification of the country.”
“Today, a socialist China is standing in the east of the world and there is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation,” Xi, dressed in a Mao jacket, told the crowd. “No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation from forging ahead.”
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