Hong Kong pro­tester shot as China marks 70th an­niver­sary

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Eileen Ng and John Le­ices­ter

HONG KONG — In a dra­matic es­ca­la­tion of vi­o­lence, Hong Kong po­lice shot a pro­tester in the chest at close range 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 in a chal­lenge to Bei­jing’s dom­i­nance as the Com­mu­nist Party cel­e­brated 70 years in power.

The of­fi­cer fired the sin­gle pis­tol shot as protesters swarmed to­ward him, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Stephen Lo said, hit­ting the 18-year-old on the left side of his chest. Lo de­fended the ac­tion as “rea­son­able and law­ful,” say­ing the of­fi­cer feared for his life.

Hong Kong’s hos­pi­tal author­ity said the teen was one of two peo­ple in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, with 66 in­jured as clashes be­tween protesters and po­lice wracked China’s freest and most in­ter­na­tional city.

While of­fi­cers have fired warn­ing shots in the air on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions dur­ing months of un­rest, this was the first time a pro­tester has been struck by gun­fire. The shoot­ing marked a dra­matic surge in vi­o­lence that spread mul­ti­ple ar­eas.

Lo said there was no or­der for po­lice to shoot if they are un­der threat, but they can use ap­pro­pri­ate force. He de­scribed protesters as “ri­ot­ers,” say­ing they have com­mit­ted wide­spread crim­i­nal acts — from at­tack­ing po­lice of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing 25 who were in­jured, to de­stroy­ing pub­lic prop­erty and van­dal­iz­ing shops and banks linked to China.

“The of­fi­cer was un­der at­tack, his life was threat­ened. He made a very quick de­ci­sion and shot the as­sailant. I be­lieve it was his best judg­ment at the time,” Lo said.

He added that al­though the of­fi­cer also had a ri­fle for rub­ber bul­lets, the event un­folded quickly.

Apart from the in­ci­dent in Tsuen Wan, where the teen was shot, he said of­fi­cers also fired five warn­ing shots in four other ar­eas, al­though no one was in­jured. Po­lice ar­rested more than 180 protesters, he added.

“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.

As protesters hoped, the chaos in Hong Kong con­trasted with an­niver­sary fes­tiv­i­ties in Bei­jing, which in­cluded a mus­cu­lar pa­rade of mil­i­tary might.

In Bei­jing, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping stood in the very spot over­look­ing Tianan­men Square where Mao Ze­dong had de­clared the es­tab­lish­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic in 1949, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of the Soviet Union.

Mean­while, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­grat­u­lated China on the 70th an­niver­sary, a mes­sage posted hours after the pro­tester in Hong Kong was shot.

Trump’s cheer­ful com­mem­o­ra­tion in a one-sen­tence tweet to “Pres­i­dent Xi and the Chi­nese peo­ple” stood in con­trast to the con­dem­na­tion aimed at Chi­nese lead­er­ship from fel­low Repub­li­cans, and it drew con­dem­na­tion from hu­man rights groups.

The Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­uted.

GEMUNU AMARASINGH­E/AP

Protesters take cover Tues­day in Hong Kong. A po­lice of­fi­cial says a pro­tester was shot.

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