Hong Kong police said an officer was forced to open fire which critically injured an 18-year-old youth as his life and those of his colleagues were under threat after coming under attack from a group of rioters.
Police Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu said in a recorded video message on Facebook yesterday night that the police force was “saddened” that the student was injured by a live round in Tsuen Wan, one of more than 10 districts rocked by protests on the same day.
“At about 4pm, a large group of rioters attacked police officers near Tai Ho Road, and they continued with their attack after officers warned them to stop. As an officer felt his life was under serious threat, he fired a round at the assailant to save his own life and his colleagues’ lives,” she said.
“The police force really did not want to see anyone being injured, so we feel very sad about this. We warn rioters to stop breaking the law immediately, as we will strictly enforce the law,” she added.
The bullet hit the left shoulder of the student who was sent to Princess Margaret Hospital, the spokesman added.
TVB reported the youth – who was earlier reported to be in critical condition – is now stable, after undergoing surgery to remove the bullet.
This is the first injury resulting from the use of live bullets by Hong Kong police during protests that have erupted in the territory since earlier this year.
News report said 104 were hurt in yesterday’s clashes, with two in critical situation and another two in serious state. Most however, have been discharged after receiving medical treatment.
Police said more than 180 people were arrested in the National Day clashes.
Separately, TVB reported that 96 people, aged between 14 and 41, were charged with rioting last weekend in the Admiralty area. Of those, 80 are males, and the rest females.
Forty-eight of those charged say they are students, with TVB reporting that some are also doctors and engineers.
Each of the 96 face a charge of rioting on Sept 29 at Harcourt Road and Admiralty area.
A 50-year-old social worker faces another count of assaulting police.
During yesterday’s clashes, police fired six live rounds in four locations including Yau Ma Tei and Wong Tai Sin.
Thousands of protesters played a game of cat and mouse with riot police, with clashes spreading to more than 10 districts, including the shopping district of Causeway Bay, government offices in Admiralty, Wan Chai, Central and across the harbour in Kowloon and the New Territories, making the unrest one of the most widespread since demonstrations escalated in June.
Police moved in swiftly to clear the crowd with volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets after protesters set up roadblocks and threw petrol bombs. They also started multiple fires, with smoke from the blaze on Hong Kong Island visible from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, across the harbour.
Public transport came to a virtual standstill with arterial roads across the city blocked off and nearly half the train lines shut because of the protests.
The clashes came after the city was put on lockdown earlier yesterday, with beefed-up police presence overnight and closure of multiple malls in clash-prone areas.
Tall water-filled barricades surrounded key government buildings, while the police blocked off certain roads in the Wan Chai area from midnight to limit access to Bauhinia Square, where the flag-raising ceremony for China’s national day celebrations was held at 8am. This was followed by a reception at the Convention and Exhibition Centre nearby.
In a speech at the reception, Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said that the escalating violence had put greater pressure on an already weak economy.
“Violence and confrontation are never solutions to problems,” said Mr Cheung. “To resolve the current acute social conflicts, we need more than ever the solidarity of all Hong Kong people to work towards the same goal, seek common ground and accommodate differences.”
He said Hong Kong residents wanted to get out of this impasse, and the government had displayed the greatest sincerity and wanted to have a dialogue with the people.
But, judging from the sentiment on the streets, Mr Cheung’s words fell on deaf ears.
A participant of the march from Causeway Bay to Central, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chan, 35, said: “They don’t get to dictate whether we come out or not. It is not a police state yet, and I believe that it shouldn’t be. So, this is our right to be on the streets.”
Mrs Gian Cheung, 40, took her children Wesley, six, and Lyana, 10, out to join the march in Sha Tin while it was still peaceful.
“Since I live nearby, I thought it would be good for my son to experience the right to protest, even if for a short bit. Because he has been watching TV at home and he sees all these images and has been asking me about what is going on. He is young but it is a good time to start.”
On Monday, both the government and the police repeatedly urged residents not to take part in the unauthorised marches and rallies. The police also said they expected the situation on China’s national day to be “very, very dangerous” as recent acts by protesters had increased in violence and intensity, and were “one step closer to terrorism”.
The territory’s activities to mark National Day were a muted affair this year, with the fireworks show cancelled and the flag-raising ceremony viewed indoors, similar to the celebrations on July 1, the date of the handover of the city by Britain to China.