Hong Kongpolice shot at least one protester on Monday during rush hour as anti-government demonstrators blocked roads and clashed with police throughout the city.
In video captured by local media, a police officer struggling to subdue a protester fired three live rounds at demonstrators in Sai Wan Ho in northeastern Hong Kong. One demonstrator, who did not appear to be armed, was shot at point-blank range in the torso and crumpled to the ground.
The protester lay on the ground in a pool of blood as police cuffed his hands behind his back. He appeared to be conscious and later attempted to run from police but was quickly caught.
In a statement, the government confirmed that a police officer had discharged his service revolver and that a man had been shot. Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said that it had received one patient with a gunshot wound, a 21 year old, who as of 10 am local time remained in critical condition. Local media reported that the demonstrator had undergone surgery.
The video, taken by Cupid Producer, was circulated widely online after protesters blocked roads and public transit stations during the morning rush hour. Protesters have called for a day of strikes, followingthe death of a student protester on Fridaywho fell from a car park during a demonstration.
The shooting has escalated already high tensions as skirmishes broke out in chaotic scenes throughout Hong Kong on Monday. The police fired tear gas and pepper spray and aimed their firearms at residents and demonstrators in multiple locations as protesters blocked roads, lit fires, and hurled objects at police.
Defending the use of firearms, the government said: “Police has strict guidelines and orders regarding the use of firearms. All police officers are required to justify their enforcement actions. ”
In Sai Wan Ho, a woman rushed at the police just after the shooting and was subdued as a crowd of residents shouted at the officers, calling them “murderers,” and threw plastic crates at them. The police fired pepper spray at the angry crowd.
“Hong Kong police gone nuts,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mowrote on Twitteralongside a video appearing to show a motorcycle policeman driving straight at protesters. “They seem to truly think they’re above the law. This has been almost like Tiananmen Square in slow motion. ”
Others criticized how police handled the injured demonstrators, turning over one who was laying face down
At Polytechnic University in Hung Hom, police fired tear gas at protesters who were throwing petrol bombs from a footbridge. At the Chinese University in Shatin, police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators. In Wong Tai Sin, protesters dug up bricks and threw them onto a main road to block traffic.
Earlier, police said protesters had blocked the Cross Harbor Tunnel, linking Kowloon to Hung Hom, and had lit fires in Shatin and Tuen Mun, obstructing traffic. Several mass transit railway (MTR) lines were delayed or suspended as some protesters were seen smashing gates at MTR stations.
At least two universities have cancelled classes for the day. By the early afternoon, protesters had gathered in central Hong Kong, facing off with riot police with their umbrellas.
Monday marks the third time police have shot demonstrators with live rounds. In the two previous cases the police claimed they fired in self defense and the demonstrators, who were both teenagers, recovered.
Hong Kong is facing its most serious political crisis in decades as protests, initially over an extradition bill that would send suspects to mainlandChina, have taken on new demands, chief among them an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
Public mistrust of the police has reached a new level, following thedeath on Friday of a 22 – year old demonstratorwho succumbed to injuries sustained earlier in the week when he fell one storey in a car park during a protest. In the days after his death, demonstrators vandalised restaurants and stores seen by protesters as pro-government, hurled petrol bombs and bricks a police and a police station.
Experts believe today’s shooting in addition to the death of the protester on Friday has raised the stakes of the protest movement now entering its sixth month.
“With this televised shooting of an unarmed protesters point blank… the militant protesters would believe more firmly they have to fight back by any means necessary, and the public opinion will be further against the police and the government,” said Ho -Fung Hung, a professor in political economy and chair of the department of sociology at Johns Hopkins University.
“With both sides digging in, the conflict is likely to escalate. Large turnout of recent peaceful rally shows that the movement has not yet worn out as the government hopes, ”he said. “A war has started.”