Police in Hong Kong, now armed with live rounds after a decision by authorities to crack down on pro-democracy protests taking place weekly in the city-state, shot two demonstrators over the weekend, including one during a Facebook livestream.
CNN reports that an additional protester was set on fire.
The protests in Hong Kong, sparked by a China-sponsored legislative measure designed to allow Chinese authorities to investigate and arrest dissidents hiding out in Hong Kong, have grown increasingy more dramatic as the pro-democracy demonstrations push into their fifth month. Although the measure is no longer on the table, Hong Kong residents say they are concerned that China’s government won’t give up on trying to bring Hong Kong under deeper control.
At least one protester was shot Monday morning during a demonstration in downtown Hong Kong, as he crossed through a crosswalk in front of police officers. The incident was captured on a Facebook livestream.
“The video shows two masked protesters in the Sai Wan Ho neighborhood of Hong Kong confronting a police officer during an early morning protest designed to disrupt rush hour traffic,” CBS News reported. “It’s unclear what exactly prompted the scuffle, but the officer quickly drew his gun and shoved it into the chest of one of the protesters while grabbing him with his free arm.”
A second protester then “approached the two struggling men and the officer appears to shoot him somewhere in the torso,” the outlet continued. Their reported said that “three shots were fired in total, and the 21-year-old protester fell to the ground with a gunshot wound to the abdomen.”
The officer involved claimed that the protester was trying to grab his service weapon when he was shot.
The protester is reportedly in critical condition, though police — the only communicating authority on the matter — say he is expected to survive. In a press conference with Chinese state run media, a police spokesperson added that the officer “attempted to fire warning shots but inadvertently hit one of the protesters,” according to the UK’s Independent.
The video, available at the Independent, seems to tell a very different story. After shooting the protester, officers pin down the wounded man and a second demonstrator.
“In a separate incident, a man who confronted a group of pro-democracy protesters was doused in a flammable liquid and set alight,” according to CNN. The man shouted that the protesters were “all not Chinese” before being beaten and then set on fire. He is also reportedly in critical condition and expected to survive, but his injuries are quite severe.
Violence between Hong Kong law enforcement authorities and protesters has been ramping up in recent weeks, and this past weekend appears to have been the most dramatic. Saturday’s and Sunday’s demonstrations saw “protesters hurl petrol bombs, set fires, build barricades and disrupt transit in several locations, including the crucial cross-harbor tunnel that connects Hong Kong Island with Kowloon.” Protesters, who are now banned from gathering in a single area, spread out to 120 separate locations to evade capture.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, was ordered to Beijing last week to receive instructions on how to quell protests — and, presumably, to be told that pro-democracy demonstrations must be shut down at all costs. In a press conference Monday morning, Lam called the protesters “enemies of the people,” and promised that they “will never win.”
“If there’s still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence the Hong Kong government will yield to pressure to satisfy the so-called political demands, I’m making this statement clear and loud here: that will not happen,” Lam said. “Violence is not going to give us any solution to the problems that Hong Kong is facing. Our joint priority now, as a city, is to end the violence and to return Hong Kong to normal as soon as possible.”