Hong Kong police fired both tear gas and live rounds at protesters on Monday. One of the protesters was hit in the chest or abdomen by a live bullet fired at point-blank range by a uniformed police officer, resulting in immediate public outrage and even more energetic protests.
The Hong Kong Free Press described the shooting on Monday morning:
Protesters had been blocking roads at an intersection outside Tai On Building in Sai Wan Ho. At around 7:15 a.m., a police officer tried to give chase to multiple masked men before he pulled out a service pistol and pointed it at them, according to a live stream by Cupid Producer. He then grabbed a protester in white and shot another protester in black at close range.
Another black-clad protester appeared to try and grab the officer’s gun. The officer then fired two more shots. It is unclear if either round hit a person.
Bloodstains were seen on the ground where the two had been subdued. One protester appeared to be conscious as he responded to onlookers who asked for his name, however, the other protester was unresponsive.
Angry crowds confronted police officers, who deployed pepper spray in return. A woman appeared to approach the unconscious protester but was wrestled down by a riot police officer.
The two protesters were taken away in an ambulance shortly after.
A video of the incident appears below.
(Warning: graphic violence)
Here is the footage. Caution advised before clicking. pic.twitter.com/I6fWVFTagI
— Jerome Taylor (@JeromeTaylor) November 11, 2019
Anonymous sources told local media the protester shot at point-blank range was hit in the kidney and liver, suffered a crushed renal vein, and experienced at least one heart attack while receiving medical treatment. A second individual was also said to have been hit by a bullet but suffered less severe injuries. In addition to the shooting itself, observers criticized the police for manhandling the injured man in a way that might have made his condition much worse.
Hong Kong police officials immediately pronounced the shooting justified because the officer was acting in self-defense and blamed the protesters for creating chaotic and violent conditions on the street. They also denied “totally false and malicious” allegations that frontline officers were given permission to “recklessly” employ their firearms against demonstrators.
“Our officers arrived to disperse the mob and to clear the roads. One traffic officer, who was not in riot gear, arrested a person. Then several others surrounded him. The officer pulled out his service revolver as a warning. However, the protester did not stop attempting to snatch the revolver,” Chief Superintendent John Tse said at a press conference.
According to Tse, the officer involved has been identified online and threats have been made against his family.
As Coconuts Hong Kong noted, Tse’s account of the incident “doesn’t appear to comport with the video evidence,” which shows the officer walking away from a crowd of demonstrators unmolested, then suddenly turning on the nearest civilians with his gun drawn, grabbing one of them in a headlock. The civilians made no attempt to touch the officer’s weapon until he leveled it at the torso of the man he shot.
“We appeal to radical protesters to be calm and rational. Protesters should stop all acts that threaten others’ safety and obstruct police’s lawful execution of duty,” a police statement said.
Another explosive video making the rounds on social media showed a motorcycle cop deliberately ramming his way through crowds of demonstrators, making several passes at the crowd:
Police responded to angry crowds shouting accusations of murder with tear gas, injuring several people with tear gas canisters and nonlethal rounds:
— Missy Lao (@missy_lao) November 11, 2019
Protesters were attempting to shut down city streets and organize a general strike after the death of 22-year-old student Alex Chow, who suffered mortal injuries after falling from a parking garage under murky circumstances.
Many students joined the protests, prompting the police to invade campuses to round up demonstrators. At Polytechnic University in Hung Hom, a riot police officer reportedly told students: “I can arrest whomever I like.”
The police then fired tear gas at protesters, marking the first time tear gas has been used inside a university campus during the current political crisis. Tear gas was also reportedly deployed at Chinese University of Hong Kong. Several schools announced they would suspend classes on Monday, including Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Alex Chow’s alma mater.
88 arrests were reported on Sunday night. China’s state-run Global Times naturally blamed everything on “rampaging” rioters:
Rioters committed organized destructive acts, assaulted police officers and blocked traffic in various districts of Hong Kong, the statement said. They vandalized shops and facilities in several malls, stormed a restaurant near Sha Tin Town Hall, and damaged facilities of Sha Tin metro station.
In face of the violence, police used minimum necessary force to disperse rioters and arrest offenders. During the operation, some rioters even attacked police officers and attempted to snatch away the arrested person.
The police reiterated that no violent behavior will be tolerated and vowed resolute enforcement action to safeguard the public safety and bring all lawbreakers to justice.
The Global Times accused “rioters” of “acting in a lawless and insane way” by blocking roads, setting fires, and throwing debris at vehicles. It approvingly cited Hong Kong police officer Lau Chak-kei, who warned in a social media post: “There will be consequences for vandalism and blocking roads. Don’t assume that police would never open fire. This is international standard!”