Anti-government protesters set fire to block traffic in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe )

Hong Kong protester shot as China marks its 70th anniversary

Thousands confronted police across the city, the largest number of protests since the unrest began in June

In a fearsome escalation of violence, Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range in the chest Tuesday, leaving the teenager bleeding and howling on the ground. Tens of thousands joined anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory even as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power.

The single pistol shot fired by the officer as protesters swarmed toward him hit the 18-year-old on the left side of his chest, police spokeswoman Yolanda Yu said. She described the protesters as “rioters” and said the officer had feared for his life.

Hong Kong’s hospital authority said the teen was one of two people in critical condition, with a total of 51 people injured as fierce clashes between protesters and police wracked China’s freest and most international city.

While officers have previously fired warning shots in the air on multiple occasions during months of demonstrations in Hong Kong, this was the first time a protester is known to have been shot. There were other instances Tuesday when officers also drew their weapons, including two with bloodied faces who pointed pistols, as protesters determined to spoil the Oct. 1 anniversary of Communist rule fought pitched battles with riot police.

Video that spread quickly on social media appeared to show the officer opening fire as the protester came at him with a metal rod, striking the officer’s shooting arm.

Taken by the City University Student Union, it showed a dozen black-clad protesters hurling objects at a group of police and closing in on the lone officer who pointed his gun and opened fire. The protester toppled backward onto the street, bleeding from below his left shoulder.

As another protester rushed in to try to drag away the wounded youth and was tackled by an officer, a gasoline bomb landed in the middle of the group of officers in an explosion of flames.

The shooting marked a dramatic escalation in violence that spread chaos to multiple areas. Widespread fighting and destruction prompted an ominous warning Tuesday evening from Hong Kong’s embattled police force, now widely decried for heavy-handed tactics, that rioters posed “a serious threat to public peace and order.” Protesters used power tools to fashion bricks into missiles and came armed with gas bombs.

“Whilst there is no excuse for violence, the use of live ammunition is disproportionate, and only risks inflaming the situation,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said of the protests in the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Riot police fired tear gas in at least six locations and used water cannons in the business district as usually bustling streets became battlefields. Hundreds of protesters sprinted into a Methodist church for refuge as officers firing volleys of choking gas swept through streets near police headquarters. A clergyman at the door clutched a bottle of water to wash out stinging eyes.

Determined to thumb their noses at Chinese President Xi Jinping, protesters ignored a security clampdown that saw more than two dozen subway stations closed, with some trekking for miles (kilometres) in the tropical heat and humidity to join a massive march in the city centre.

Chanting anti-China slogans and “Freedom for Hong Kong,” the dense crowd dressed in mournful black snaked for over a mile (1.6 kilometres) along a broad thoroughfare in defiance of a police ban. Some carried Chinese flags defaced with a black cross. Organizers said at least 100,000 people marched. Police didn’t give an estimate.

“They are squeezing our necks so we don’t breathe the air of freedom,” said King Chan, a 57-year-old homemaker who marched with her husband.

Demonstrators tossed wads of fake bank notes usually used at funerals into the air. “The leaders who won’t listen to our voice, this is for them,” said marcher Ray Luk.

Thousands confronted police across the city, the largest number of simultaneous protests since the unrest began in early June over a now-shelved extradition bill that activists say was an example of how Hong Kong’s freedoms and citizen rights are being eroded. The movement has since grown into an anti-Chinese campaign with demands for direct elections for the city’s leaders and police accountability.

The smell of stinging tear gas and smoke from street fires started by protesters engulfed the Wan Chai, Wong Tai Sin, Sha Tin, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Tsim Sha Tsui areas.

Protesters used umbrellas as shields and threw tear gas canisters back at police. Police said protesters used corrosive fluid in Tuen Mun, injuring officers and some reporters.

In Wong Tai Sin, a gasoline bomb that protesters hurled at police exploded near motorcycles parked along a pavement, creating a large blaze later extinguished by firefighters. Some protesters placed an emergency water hose down a subway station to try to flood it.

A water cannon truck sprayed blue water, used to identify protesters, to disperse crowds from advancing to government offices. Scores of police also stood guard near Beijing’s liaison office as the battles continued.

“Today we are out to tell the Communist Party that Hong Kong people have nothing to celebrate,” said activist Lee Cheuk-yan as he led the downtown march. “We are mourning that in 70 years of Communist Party rule, the democratic rights of people in Hong Kong and China are being denied. We will continue to fight.”

Activists carried banners saying, “End dictatorial rule, return power to the people.”

Distributing funeral bank notes to marchers, black-clad protester Julie Milde said she was “mourning for our Hong Kong. It’s going to be the death soon.”

The popular LIHKG online chat forum used by protesters was inaccessible on cellphones, a move believed to have been aimed at thwarting their communications.

As protesters hoped, the chaos in Hong Kong contrasted with anniversary festivities in Beijing, which included a muscular parade of military might. Among those attending was Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose leadership during the crisis has made her a hate-figure for many protesters.

As the city’s government marked the anniversary with a solemn ceremony in the morning, police used pepper spray to break up a brief scuffle between Beijing supporters and a small group of pro-democracy protesters.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung told hundreds of guests at a reception that the city has become “unrecognizable” due to the violence.

Cheung said Beijing fully supports the “one country, two systems” framework that gives Hong Kong freedoms and rights not enjoyed on the mainland.

READ MORE: ‘Shame on you’: Demonstrators protest China-sponsored reception at UBCM

READ MORE: Hong Kong pulls extradition bill that triggered massive protests

___

Associated Press writer Kelvin Chan in London contributed.

Eileen Ng And John Leicester, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Severe storm warning remains in effect for the Kootenays

Two special weather statements have been issued for the West Kootenay

Update: Suspect in Montrose gas station stabbing new to the area

Police say the 30-year-old suspect stabbed a Montrose gas station employee

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

RDKB launches survey to address housing needs in the district

Communities in the district include Trail, Grand Forks, Rossland and Fruitvale

No passenger flights at West Kootenay Regional Airport until at least September

This is the third time Air Canada has announced changes to flight operations out of the airport

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Join Kootenay family in virtual walk for Ronald McDonald House

“We always described it as our oasis in the middle of the desert,” Brigitte Ady shares.

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

Most Read