A Hong Kong police officer shot a masked protester at point-blank range while activists set another man on fire after dousing him in petrol as a fresh round of violence erupted across the city today.
The masked man was critically wounded by a gunshot in Sai Wan Ho as wild scuffles broke out this morning after the city’s 24th straight weekend of protests.
In footage broadcast live on Facebook, a Hong Kong policeman drew his weapon as he wrestled with a man at a blockaded road junction, with a second protester advancing towards them in a bid to help his comrade.
That second protester appeared to take a swipe at the officer’s pistol and just moments later the policeman opened fire at him, hitting him in the torso.
Today the critically wounded man was having an operation in hospital, sparking further anger at alleged police brutality in Hong Kong.
On top of that, another man was badly wounded after he was doused in petrol and set on fire after remonstrating with protesters in separate clashes at Ma On Shan Plaza.
Horrifying footage of the attack showed the man being splashed with fuel and engulfed in flames after arguing with protesters on a footbridge and telling them ‘you are not Chinese’.
The man managed to rip off his flaming shirt but was also critically injured in hospital after suffering severe burns.
The violence prompted further anger today but Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said the violence had gone far beyond calls for democracy and said the protesters were now the people’s enemy.
A police source confirmed to AFP today that live rounds were fired at more than one protester during rush-hour protests in Sai Wan Ho.
Police said in a statement that radical protesters had set up barricades at multiple locations across the city and warned the demonstrators to ‘stop their illegal acts immediately’.
Anson Yip, a 36-year-old Sai Wan Ho resident, said protesters were throwing rubbish to create a road block when police, possibly from the traffic department, ran to the scene.
‘They didn’t fight and the police ran and directly shot. There was three sounds, like ‘pam, pam, pam’,’ Yip said.
‘They [the protesters] are against the government, tha’s why the police just shot them,’ he said.
A 24-year-old man, one of several office workers who gathered at the scene after the shooting, said: ‘When I arrived the road was blocked and people were yelling at the police, calling them murderers.’
Joining angry crowds in Sai Wan Ho after the shooting, another woman said: ‘I don’t understand why the police has to use that kind of brutality to hurt innocent people. I think it’s just out of sense, out of control.’
As shrieks pierced the air after the shooting, other demonstrators rushed at the officer who appeared to fire further shots.
The masked demonstrator he had originally tried to arrest broke free in the struggle but a third man also went to ground as the shots were fired.
Police could later be seen detaining the two men on the ground. The man who was shot had a pool of blood next to him, his body limp and his eyes wide open as officers moved him around and tried to tie his hands. The second man was conscious and talking.
The protester who was shot, reportedly a 21-year-old university student, was having an operation in hospital where he was in a critical condition, the Hospital Authority said.
Police commander Patrick Kwok later said the protester had been trying to snatch the officer’s gun, according to Hong Kong media, adding that the student had been injured in the liver and kidney.
The rush-hour protests were a rare sign of working-hours violence following demonstrations over the weekend.
Officers first began using live rounds as warning shots in August and have previously shot an 18-year-old protester and a 14-year-old, both of whom survived.
Today demonstrators called the shooting ‘absolutely disproportionate’ and called for an ‘indefinite’ strike in protest at police tactics.
The policemen who shot the student protester has received death threats against his children after activists unlawfully leaked his personal information on the internet, police said.
Separate footage circulating online showed protesters squirting petrol over a man and setting him on fire on a footbridge at Ma On Shan Plaza, around 12 miles from the central business district.
The unarmed man, reportedly 57 years old, was attacked around 1pm after clashing with protesters who had allegedly trashed a nearby station.
He is heard shouting in the footage: ‘[You] are not Chinese. All [of you] are not Chinese.’
The people he was arguing with then yelled at him to go back to the ‘Great Bay Area’, the area bordering Hong Kong in the Guangdong Province of mainland China.
As the group of protesters film the man on their phones, one black-clad man suddenly splashes liquid onto the man’s body and sets him on fire.
Recoiling in agony, the man tries desperately to throw off the flames in front of horrified passers-by while the person filming the scene runs in the other direction.
When the camera next shows the man, he has thrown the shirt off and is standing bare-chested while the fire is smouldering in another part of the walkway.
Nonetheless, the man apparently suffered severe burns in the attack and is being treated at the city’s Prince of Wales Hospital.
Hong Kong police said the attackers were ‘rioters’ – a sensitive term – and said they had trashed the nearby Ma On Shan train station, prompting the man to chase them down and remonstrate with them.
‘In the most shocking incident, some rioters poured flammable liquid onto a person and set him on fire,’ police spokesman John Tse told reporters at a press conference. ‘The man has been admitted to hospital in critical condition.’
Lau Cha Kei, a Hong Kong police officer who sparked controversy in July after pointing a gun at protesters, called the assailant ‘human scum’ before sharing the footage of the attack on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.
The officer also told protesters to bear the consequences should they block the streets.
He wrote in another Weibo post while sharing the moment of the shooting: ‘Don’t think that police will never open fire. This is the international standard.’ The post has been taken down.
Police fired tear gas and deployed a water cannon in various parts of the city on Monday and charged onto the campus of Chinese University, where students were protesting.
Further footage on social media showed a police motorbike seemingly attempting to ram black-clad protesters in a running battle through the streets.
Another clip circulating online shows riot officers beating a crowd of people after breaking into a church. One woman is heard begging the police to stop. The video is believed to be filmed in the Holy Cross Church, where officers stormed and arrested several protesters seeking shelter there, reported Radio and Television Hong Kong.
A third video shows a riot officer pointing a can of pepper spray at journalists while telling them to stay back.
Police also threw a woman to the debris-littered street and pepper-sprayed her in the face as plastic crates were thrown at officers.
Rail services were partly suspended because of fires and obstacles on the tracks and windows were smashed at a branch of the state-owned Bank of China.
Tensions have soared in recent days following the death of a 22-year-old student who fell from a parking garage during police clashes last Monday.
Chow Tsz-Lok, who died on Friday, had been in a coma since he was found unconscious in a pool of blood four days earlier.
Riot police had been firing tear gas moments before he fell, and although the nature of his death remains unclear, his death has sparked further anger at alleged police brutality.
The city has seen four days of consecutive protests since the student’s death as well as tens of thousands attending mass vigils.
Using online messaging forums, activists had called for a general strike on Monday morning.
Flashmob protests sprung up in multiple districts during the morning commuter period, with small groups of masked protesters targeting subway stations and building barricades on road junctions.
Even before the shooting in Sai Wan Ho, tear gas had been fired in at least two other locations.
Services on some train and subway lines were disrupted early on Monday, with riot police deployed near stations and shopping malls.
Many universities cancelled classes on Monday and there were long traffic jams in some areas.
Monday’s shooting is the third time protesters have been shot with live rounds by police.
On October 1, a student was struck in the chest as he and a group of activists attacked an officer with sticks and poles. He survived his wound and is being prosecuted.
Days later a 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg when a policeman in plainclothes fired his gun after his car was attacked by a crowd. He also survived and was arrested.
There have been only few fatalities amid the months-long unrest, with previous reports of suicides and a man who fell to his death while hanging pro-democracy banners on a building.
The protests were sparked by a since-abandoned bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China.
The protests have mushroomed into a wider rebellion against Beijing and a demand for more democracy, including direct elections for Hong Kong leaders.
The bill sparked fears of Beijing’s influence in Hong Kong despite the freedoms guaranteed to the city when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China guaranteed 50 years of freedoms, but 22 of them have passed already and young people in Hong Kong today will see that deadline expire in their lifetimes.
Police tactics during the demonstrations, in which more than 3,300 people have been arrested, have fuelled further anger and calls for an investigation into alleged brutality.
Protesters also want Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign, but she remains in post and has refused to make any major concessions to the demonstrators.