HONG KONG (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong anti-government demonstrators clashed with police on Wednesday (Oct 2) night and into the early hours of Thursday, venting their anger over a policeman's shooting and wounding of a teenager earlier in the week, as months of protests show no sign of letting up.
Police urged the government to impose curfews to help curb the escalating violence in the Chinese-ruled city, where officers have become a target of protesters amid accusations of excessive force.
Activists went on the rampage in districts across the Chinese-ruled city late into the night, hurling petrol bombs, setting fires, blocking roads and vandalising some shops and metro stations as police fired tear gas to disperse them.
"Wherever there are protests nearby I'll come... I'm out tonight for a simple reason. You don't shoot a teenager at point-blank range," said Mr Alex Chan, an interior designer at a protest in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay. "These protests will continue and we won't give up."
Thousands took to the streets on Wednesday to denounce the shooting of an 18-year-old secondary school student, which police said was an act of self-defence after the officer's life came under serious threat.
The student was shot at point-blank range as he fought the officer with a metal pipe during violent protests on Tuesday, when demonstrators hurled petrol bombs at police who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
He has been charged with rioting and assaulting an officer, police said.
Another six men, aged between 18 and 38, have also been charged with rioting, with one 38-year-old man facing an additional count of arson.
Rail operator MTR Corp closed stations in districts including Po Lam, Hang Hau and Tseung Kwan O just before midnight on Wednesday as violence escalated once again.
Police said on Thursday that the protesters' acts "seriously undermined public order and posed a threat to the personal safety of police officers and members of the public".
Hong Kong police groups called on the government on Wednesday to access powerful colonial-era laws to impose curfews and other measures to keep people off the streets.
"In the face of such a massive series of rioting incidents, we cannot work alone without appropriate measures and support from the top level," Junior Police Officers' Association chairman Lam Chi Wai said in a statement.
Hong Kong’s powerful Public Order Ordinance – passed during a wave of leftist riots in 1967 – lets the government establish curfews and close areas from public access.
The Emergency Regulations Ordinance of 1922 goes further, allowing the chief executive to make "any regulations whatsoever" to ensure public security, including censorship, snap arrests and property searches and seizures.
While the Hong Kong and Chinese governments haven’t ruled out the use of such emergency powers, they’ve so far refrained from accessing them.
The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which reports to the president and Congress, has warned Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s government that the "Emergency Regulations Ordinance or taking steps toward martial law in #HongKong is the wrong way to resolve the situation."
The measures risk further inflaming public anger over what they see as eroding freedoms and dealing another blow to the city’s battered economy.
The Emergency Regulations Ordinance hasn’t been used in more than a half century. The government has also considered other steps, such as a law banning the wearing of face masks.
The former British colony has been rocked by months of protests over a now-withdrawn extradition Bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, but have evolved into calls for democracy, among other demands.
The opposition to the Beijing-backed government has plunged the city into its biggest political crisis in decades and poses the gravest popular challenge to President Xi Jinping since he came to power.
Protesters are also angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city's affairs despite a promise of autonomy in the "one country, two systems" formula under which Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.
China dismisses accusations it is meddling and has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of stirring up anti-China sentiment.