Hong Kong, Oct 1 (IANS) An 18-year-old Hongkonger is in a critical condition in hospital after being shot in the chest at close range with a live round by the police on Tuesday, as the Asian financial hub was convulsed by unprecedented chaos on a day when communist China celebrated its 70th birthday.
At least 31 people, including the teenage student with a gunshot wound, were admitted to hospitals with injuries, according to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.
The young man’s injury marked the first time a protester was injured from a live round since the anti-government demonstration movement erupted in the semiautonomous Chinese city in early June.
The incident, which sent shockwaves through Hong Kong, occurred in the residential area of Tsuen Wan.
TV footage captured by the local media showed a group of police officers clashing with a group of umbrella-wielding black-clad protesters. While the latter hurled objects such as bricks at the police, one officer aimed his gun at the protesters – apparently being just two metres away – and fired a live round.
One of the black-clad protesters then fell to the ground. Still conscious, he said: “Take me to the hospital. My chest hurts. Take me to the hospital.” He identified himself as Tsang Chi-kin while being attended to by paramedics, according to Efe news.
Speaking of the incident in a video statement later, a police spokeswoman said “a large group of rioters” attacked the police officers whose lives were therefore “under threat”.
“To save his own live and his colleagues’ lives, he fired a live round at the assailant,” the spokeswoman spoke of the officer who deployed his gun, adding that the young man’s “left shoulder area” was injured.
A source close to the hospital to which Tsang, reportedly a high school student, was admitted told Efe news that the victim underwent a chest drain and a bullet was located three centimetre from his heart.
The incident happened on China’s National Day, which anti-government protesters had been describing over the past week as “a day of mourning”, in contrast to the importance that Hong Kong authorities and Beijing attached to the day.
Instead of toeing the official line to celebrate the day, the protesters took to the streets in at least seven districts across Hong Kong to show their defiance of China and the Hong Kong government.
Just a couple of hours after China kicked off one of its biggest ever military parades to celebrate the National Day, tens of thousands of people marched on streets in Hong Kong.
The parade to mark the 70th anniversary of communist rule in China was held in Tiananmen Square and attended by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
In Hong Kong, meanwhile, the largely peaceful rallies on Tuesday soon descended into chaos with riot police resorting to firing multiple rounds of teargas and pepper spray at demonstrators in various areas, from the commercial area of Wan Chai to the residential suburb of Tuen Mun.
Protesters, masked and clad in black, vandalized traffic lights and facilities in metro stations, set bonfires on streets and broke the windows of specific shops deemed pro-government or pro-police. In Tuen Mun, a small group of people threw Molotov cocktails.
The area near the Liaison Office — Beijing’s organ in the semiautonomous Chinese city — was ringed by a blanket presence of riot police officers and water cannon vehicles were on standby when a relatively group of protesters emerged briefly.
Later, the police deployed water cannons mixed with blue dye to dispel the crowds. None of the rallies were authorized by the police, but demonstrators were undaunted.
In some rallies, a Chinese national flag was burned and a poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping was hurled with eggs.
Twenty-five out of 91 MTR stations were closed and more than 25 shopping malls around the city shuttered for the day.
Hong Kong has been witnessing mass demonstrations since June, sparked by a contentious extradition bill, but the movement has since morphed into a wider and violent anti-government movement channelling residents’ anger and frustration at the erosion of their rights under Chinese rule.