Hong Kong protester shot: Office workers, schoolmates denounce police's actions

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Protesters throwing petrol bombs at a police station in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, on Oct 2, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Protesters fold paper cranes at New Town Plaza, Sha Tin, to form the words “Free HK", on Oct 2, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Protesters cover their eyes at the New Town Plaza, Sha Tin, on Oct 2, 2019, in support of a woman who was shot in the eye during demonstrations. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Protesters at Admiralty Centre on Oct 2, 2019. They put their hands across their chest in support of their fellow protester who was shot in the chest during the October 1 protest. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Schoolmates of a student protester who was shot by a policeman on Tuesday participating in a gathering in solidarity with the student in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong on Oct 2, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS
Schoolmates of student Tsang Chi-kin, who was shot in the chest by police during violent pro-democracy protests on Oct 1, place their hands on their chests during a protest at a school in Hong Kong on Oct 2, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
SPH Brightcove Video
Amateur video of violent demonstrations in Hong Kong on Tuesday captures the moment when a policeman points a pistol at a protester and fires a round, after which the young man falls to the ground. The action was defended by the Hong Kong police.

HONG KONG (REUTERS, AFP) - Hong Kong office workers and high-school students turned out in their hundreds under a sweltering midday sun on Wednesday (Oct 2) to denounce a policeman for shooting and wounding a teenager during the most violent clashes in nearly four months of unrest.

The office workers gathered in Chater Garden in the Central business district as the students, some in the same class as the wounded 18-year-old, staged a sit-in outside his New Territories school.

The international finance hub has been left reeling from the shooting, the first time a demonstrator has been struck with a live round in nearly four months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests.

Hong Kong was battered by the most sustained political violence of the year on Tuesday as China celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule with a massive military parade in Beijing.

The spiralling violence underscored seething public anger against Beijing's rule and shifted the spotlight from China's carefully choreographed birthday party, which was designed to showcase its status as a global superpower.

Running battles raged for hours across multiple locations as hardcore protesters hurled rocks and petrol bombs. Police responded for the most part with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

In Tsuen Wan district, police said an officer fired his weapon at close range into the shoulder of Tsang Chi-kin, 18, as his unit was attacked by protesters armed with poles and umbrellas.

However, various media reports had said Tsang was hit in the chest.

Police said the officer feared for his life on a day that saw his colleagues fire five warning shots from their pistols throughout the city.

But protest groups hit back, saying the officer charged into the melee with his firearm drawn, and condemned the increasing use of live rounds.

"HK (has) fallen into a de facto police state," prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted. "The paramilitary security forces completely took over this city."

FROM CRITICAL TO STABLE

The shooting was captured on video that quickly went viral, further fanning the flames.

Outside Tsang's school on Wednesday, students chanted slogans and held pictures of the incident, taken from videos posted on Facebook.

"No rioters, only tyranny," they chanted, alongside other popular protest slogans.

One activist, her face covered by one of the now ubiquitous gas masks worn by protesters, sat next to a sign that read: "With blood, tears and sweat we shall stride ahead."

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"(It's) ridiculous, it can't happen, and it should not be happening in Hong Kong," said one 17-year-old who goes to the same school. "It really disappointed me and let me down about the policeman. I don't know why they took this action to deal with a Form Five student. Why do you need to shoot? It's a real gun."

Tsang, who was filmed trying to strike the officer with a pole as he was shot, was taken to a nearby hospital in a critical condition but the authorities said his condition has since improved.

"According to the latest information of the Hospital Authority, the current condition of the man is stable," the government said in a statement.

A friend and classmate of Tsang, who gave his first name Marco, said the 18-year-old was a keen basketball player who was infuriated by sliding freedoms in Hong Kong and the police response to the protests.

"If he sees any problems or anything unjust, he will face it bravely, speak up against it, instead of bearing it silently," Marco told AFP.

Hong Kong's police chief Stephen Lo said police would investigate the circumstances of the shooting but he defended his officers' conduct.

Police said more than 180 people were arrested in the National Day clashes.

A total of 25 officers were injured, including some who suffered chemical burns from a corrosive liquid that was thrown at them by protesters. The liquid also hit some journalists.

Hospital authorities said more than 60 people were admitted on Tuesday; two in a critical condition. Police made about 160 arrests throughout the day.

Hong Kong's protests were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions to the mainland.

But after Beijing and local leaders took a hardline stance, they snowballed into a wider movement calling for democratic freedoms and police accountability.

With Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam seemingly unwilling or unable to find a political solution, police have been left to battle increasingly radicalised protesters.

Sentiment is hardening on all sides.

Protesters and some local residents routinely shout "triads" and other abuse at officers who are often heard calling demonstrators "cockroaches" and other slurs in return.

The protest movement's main demands are an independent inquiry into police actions, an amnesty for those arrested and universal suffrage.

But Beijing and Mrs Lam have said they are unwilling to meet those demands.

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