Celebrations in Beijing turned to bloody violence in Hong Kong on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
As the pro-democracy movement took to the streets in the former British territory amid a city-wide ban, a young protester was shot in the chest at point-blank range by a police officer, a video showed.
“An officer discharged his firearm after coming under attack and a protester was struck in the chest in Tsuen Wan district today,” a police source said after requesting anonymity.
The protester, who was welding what looked like a metal bar, was later rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital. His condition is still unknown.
A video posted on Facebook by student reporters at Hong Kong’s City University showed the young man lying on the floor, blood seeping from a wound to the upper left part of his chest.
“Send me to hospital,” the young man, who gave his name Tsang Chi-kin, tells reporters. “My chest is hurting, I need to go to hospital.”
Fifteen people have so far been “admitted to hospitals across the city, one of whom was in a critical condition,” a healthcare spokeswoman said.
EU urges restraint
The incident has already sparked worldwide condemnation with the European Union calling for “de-escalation and restraint” in Hong Kong.
”In light of the continuing unrest and violence in Hong Kong, the European Union continues to stress that dialogue, de-escalation and restraint are the only way forward,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the EU, told a media briefing.
Earlier in the day, the strife-torn city marked China’s National Day with a defiant “Day of Grief” as pro-democracy activists ignored a ban on marches.
Protests were determined to overshadow Beijing’s 70th-anniversary celebrations, with tens of thousands taking to the streets on Hong Kong Island.
Smaller crowds rallied in nearly a dozen other districts with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets in running battles with hardcore elements of the democracy movement in at least four separate locations.
In Tsuen Wan, masked protesters used umbrellas and projectiles to beat riot officers after they made a series of arrests, forcing the police to retreat into a nearby town hall.
Authorities also said demonstrators threw corrosive liquid at officers in Tuen Mun, posting pictures of a policeman with chemical burns to his torso.
But the biggest march remained on Hong Kong Island where huge crowds tried to make their way towards the building that represents China’s central government, a previous target for protesters. They were halted by lines of riot police who pushes the crowds back.
At one point along the march demonstrators threw eggs at a portrait of China’s President Xi Jinping and tore down large placards celebrating the 70th anniversary, trampling the discarded slogans underfoot.
“Three months on and our five demands have yet to be achieved. We need to continue our fight,” a protester, wearing a mask from the cult film and comic book “V for Vendetta”, said.
Hours earlier, lavish celebrations had taken taking place in Beijing, including a huge military parade through Tiananmen Square under the gaze of Communist Party General-Secretary Xi.
Among those watching was Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who has historically low approval ratings at home as public anger boils over Beijing’s increased control of the financial hub.
Millions have hit the streets in record-breaking numbers while hardcore activists have repeatedly clashed with police, in the biggest challenge to China’s rule since the city’s 1997 handover by Britain.
In a vivid illustration of the political insecurity now coursing through Hong Kong, city officials watched a morning harbourside flag-raising ceremony from the safety of the nearby convention center.
Throughout the morning police ramped up security checks and conducted frequent stop and searches while authorities announced the closure of 15 subway stations.
Rival pro-China rallies were also held.
In the morning, a crowd of some 50 people waved flags and chanted “Long live the motherland!”
“We are Chinese and the whole nation is celebrating,” Kitty Chan, 30, said.
Hong Kong’s protests were initially sparked by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions to the mainland but have since snowballed into a much wider movement of popular anger against city leaders and Beijing.
Among the demands made by protesters is an inquiry into the police, an amnesty for the more than 1,500 people arrested and universal suffrage – all of which have been rejected by Beijing and Lam.
with reporting by AFP