Hong Kong, 2 October 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Hong Kong police on Wednesday said they made 269 arrests at huge anti-government demonstrations a day earlier, as the force defended the conduct of anti-riot officers in their clashes with protesters.
Police fired 900 rubber bullets, 230 foam rounds and 1,400 cans of tear gas, as well as six live rounds of ammunition, during the demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Tuesday.
On the same day in Beijing, the Chinese government marked the 70th National Day with a massive military parade. The holiday celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Hong Kong’s Deputy Commissioner of Police Tang Ping-keung pushed back against criticism of the officers’ actions, saying they were “undoubtedly lawful and reasonable.”
This included the shooting of an 18-year-old protester at close range with a live round.
The secondary school student, who is now in stable condition after undergoing surgery at the hospital, is under arrest on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.
Video footage of the incident shared online showed a group of protesters on Tuesday surrounding a police officer in riot gear and hitting him with rods before a group of police rushes in from the side and fire tear gas.
As one protester, armed with a blue boogie board shield, hits a second officer with a rod, the policeman can be seen discharging his service weapon at close range, before the protester collapses to the ground.
Tang said that “the officer felt his life and those of his fellow officers was in danger.” He also had the police officer had “very limited choices” and said there “wasn’t enough time and space for a warning shot.”
Officers involved in the shooting will not be investigated because their actions were deemed “lawful and reasonable,” according to police.
News of the shooting, however, prompted outrage in Hong Kong where gun violence is rare. Hundreds of office workers and residents marched through the central business district during their lunch hour to express outrage at police violence. More demonstrations were planned for Wednesday evening.
While police have previously discharged their firearms on a handful of occasions at anti-government protests, shooting a protester with live ammunition is unprecedented.
Protesters and journalists, however, have both been hit by rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and other projectiles in the past.
Public broadcaster RTHK recalled journalists from its English service from covering protests on Tuesday night after a reporter was injured by a projectile.
Hong Kong’s hospital authority said 117 people were injured at demonstrations on Tuesday.
Twenty-four pro-democracy legislators condemned police actions in a joint statement late Tuesday, saying that police were “out of control.”