Hong Kong police officer shoots protester with live round in early morning clashes

Posted at 10:53 PM, Nov 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 00:53:40-05

A 21-year-old protester was shot with a live round by a police officer in Hong Kong early Monday morning, as traffic stalled and clashes broke out across the city.

A traffic officer shot the protester in the torso and fired two more live rounds in Sai Wan Ho, on eastern Hong Kong Island, according to a police source.

In a video clip of the incident shared online, the officer can be seen grappling with a protester. A second protester, dressed in black and wearing a face mask, approaches the scuffle, and the officer raises his gun.

The second protester appears to try and wave or slap the gun away, and the officer shoots him at close range, to screams from the surrounding crowd of protesters and passersby.

Several more protesters then grapple with the officer, and two more live rounds are fired off-camera.

The injured protester is undergoing operation at a hospital and remains in a critical condition, according to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.

In a statement, police confirmed that the officer had “discharged his service revolver,” and that officers in two other locations also drew their guns as they tried to disperse protesters.

The statement denied “online rumors” of reckless firearm use, and called the accusations “totally false and malicious.”

“Police (have) strict guidelines and orders regarding the use of firearms,” the statement said. “All police officers are required to justify their enforcement actions.”

Police officers have since cordoned off the area where the protester was shot, and fired tear gas to disperse protesters.

Protesters called for a general strike on Monday across the city, and caused traffic disruptions at several locations throughout Monday morning. Police said demonstrators set barricades and blocked roads in Sha Tin, Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun, and Hung Hom districts.

Several subway lines were experiencing minor to severe delays, with some routes partially suspended “due to an escalation of the situation in station,” according to the MTR subway operator.

In a statement, police said they were continuing to clear barricades and disperse the protesters.

Anti-government protests, which began in June in opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill, have dragged on for five months. Protesters have five major demands, including an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality and wider democratic reforms.

The protests have sent retail and tourism numbers plunging in the former British colony, which fell into recession in October. Demonstrations have also steadily escalated in violence, with increasing public hostility toward the city government and police force.

Police first used lethal force in October by firing a live shot and injuring a protester.

Tensions in the semi-autonomous Chinese city were further inflamed this weekend, with raging protests fueled by anger over the death of a 22-year-old student.

Chow Tsz-lok, a computer sciences student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), died on Friday morning, days after falling and suffering a severe head injury in a parking garage close to the scene of protests.

Chow had been in a coma and on life support until Friday. There is no indication that Chow was involved in the nearby protest the night of his injury.

Protesters and fellow students mourned his death throughout the weekend, with a vigil on Friday night and a memorial on Sunday. HKUST students left flowers and messages on Post-it notes on campus, and vigil attendees laid flowers and lit candles.

Chow’s death also prompted an outpouring of anger from anti-government protesters, who claim that police actions on the night of the accident resulted in paramedics being temporarily unable to access him.

This anger spilled out during the weekend protests, with protesters on the streets shouting for “revenge.”

Police expressed “profound sadness” over Chow’s death, but have strenuously denied responsibility and maintained that at no point did officers obstruct ambulance or fire services from assisting him. A police statement released on November 5 described the allegations as “certainly false.”

According to police, ambulance crews arrived at the scene on November 4 approximately 19 minutes after being called. Hong Kong’s ambulances pledge to arrive at the scene of the incident within 12 minutes of a call.