Plumes of smoke billowing from one of many fires started by rioters on Tuesday smother the neighborhood of Wan Chai as the city suffered another day of turmoil and chaos. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)
HONG KONG-A police officer shot and wounded a pipe-wielding protester in self-defense and to save his colleagues on Tuesday afternoon amid violent protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill, turning Hong Kong into a ghost-town battlefield.
This is the first time a live bullet has hit a protester since the social unrest began in mid-June.
The shooting took place when a mob attacked a small group of police officers in Tsuen Wan.
In a video filmed by the University of Hong Kong Students’ Union’s Campus TV, the protester, 18, was seen attacking a police officer with a steel pipe that hit the officer’s revolver-holding arm and triggered the shot that wounded the man in his left collarbone.
The man was conscious as he was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital, Senior Superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch Yu Hoi-Kwan said in a video published on the police force’s Facebook account after the incident.
The police did not wish to hurt anyone and “felt sad” that it happened, she added.
At a police briefing, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung backed the officer’s decision in such an urgent situation within seconds as “reasonable” and “lawful”.
Five other live rounds were fired on Tuesday by officers whose lives were under threat during violent clashes in Tsuen Wan, Yau Ma Tei and Wong Tai Sin. Police said over 180 arrests were made, with 25 officers injured in the line of duty.
Lo strongly condemned the rioters’ acts, saying that he’s very concerned and saddened by the violence and vandalism.
The wounded man, surnamed Tsang, is a secondary student at the Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College. As of press time, he remained in critical condition, but his injuries were not life-threatening, according to the Hospital Authority.
Some netizens had incited people to escalate the violence and launch an “end game” with the Hong Kong Police Force on Tuesday — National Day. Beginning in the afternoon, different districts in the New Territories, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island resembled war zones as masked and black-clad rioters went on a rampage, vandalizing metro stations, stores and restaurants.
They also set fires on streets and attacked police with gasoline bombs and corrosive fluid. Several police officers and reporters were injured by corrosive fluid splashed by rioters in Tuen Mun.
At Wong Tai Sin, side streets were hit by gasoline bombs, which radicals used to attack police officers. Thick black smoke soon engulfed the scene.
Glass doors and windows of many stores and restaurants in different districts were smashed by mobs, and facilities inside were vandalized. Radicals also painted black graffiti on stores’ logos. A number of local media withdrew all reporters from streets, citing concerns over the safety of on-site employees.
According to the Hospital Authority, as of 12 pm, 74 people had been hospitalized, including two in critical condition and two in serious condition.
On the public holiday, Hong Kong — a world-renowned shopping paradise — became a ghost town as about 30 shopping malls across the city closed their doors all day amid fears of possible violence and vandalism. Most of stores in regions badly hit by violence were shuttered.
In addition, the mayhem brought the city’s traffic to a standstill as about 45 metro stations along six lines closed and more than 100 bus routes suspended their services. All cross-boundary buses from Hong Kong to Guangdong province suspended service after 4 pm.
The city’s various sectors condemned the rioters’ violence and vandalism.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong — the city’s largest political group in the legislature — strongly condemned the violence, saying the mobs’ acts defied the law.
The city’s largest labor union also lambasted the rioters. In a statement, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said the riotous behavior has destabilized the city and endangered the people of Hong Kong.
The New People’s Party blasted those who incited young people to participate in violent protests in the name of democracy and freedom. The party called on Hong Kong Chief Executive Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the SAR government to stop the violence as soon as feasibly and legally possible, and to restore peace to Hong Kong.
Pro-establishment lawmakers condemned the vandalism of the violent protesters, saying their lack of respect for the country and its people has shamed the people of Hong Kong.
In a joint statement, they reiterated their strong support for police to decisively enforce the law and bring offenders to justice, in a bid to stop violence and restore social order as soon as possible.
Lawmakers urged members of the public to reject violence and stop sympathizing with, tolerating or glorifying violence, so that radical protesters can no longer use public opinion as an excuse.
HONG KONG NEWS