Hong Kong has been hit with another day of turmoil Tuesday after a man was shot by a police officer and another set alight following a confrontation with protesters in one of the most dramatic days in over five months of protests.
At midday Tuesday, a few thousand people — including office workers and black-clad protesters — brought traffic to a standstill by occupying a major intersection in Central, the city’s business district. In the afternoon, police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and detained about a dozen people.
Earlier in the day, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam called out “aggressive rioters” who she said were trying to disrupt the city’s transport networks. “They want to paralyze Hong Kong, which is a selfish act,” she said.
Tuesday’s unrest follows a day of clashes around the city on Monday that saw protesters hurl petrol bombs, set fires, build barricades and disrupt transport. In total, 287 people were arrested on Monday, including 187 students, according to police.
A day of chaos
On Monday morning local time, a police officer shot a 21-year-old protester at close range in the torso in Sai Wan Ho, on eastern Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong Chief Superintendent of Police Tse Chun-Chung said the officer fired because he was afraid the protester would attempt to snatch the gun from his hand.
On Monday afternoon, police said there was no immediate threat to the protester’s life, and on Tuesday, hospital authorities said he was no longer in a critical condition. According to a police source, the protester has been arrested for unlawful assembly, and for attempted robbery over allegedly trying to grab the gun.
In a separate incident on Monday afternoon, a 57-year-old man was doused with a flammable liquid and set alight after an argument with protesters on a footbridge in Ma On Shan, police said in a statement.
A police officer was suspended from front line service Monday after driving a motorbike through a crowd of protesters in Kwai Fung, in the New Territories, Tse said.
Hong Kong’s protests began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
Since then, demonstrations have expanded to include five major demands, including an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality and wider democratic reforms.
In response to the demands, the city government appointed a panel of overseas experts to assist Hong Kong’s longstanding Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), which is conducting a fact-finding study into alleged police misconduct during the protests.
The nonstop protests have also sent retail and tourism numbers plunging, and the semi-autonomous city fell into recession in October. Travel is dropping as demonstrations escalate in violence, and there is increasing public hostility toward the city government and police force.
Monday’s violence comes just days after a university student died from a head injury suffered in a parking garage close to the scene of protests.
Chow Tsz-lok, a computer sciences student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), died on Friday morning after being on life support.
Although there is no indication that Chow was involved in the nearby protest the night of his injury, his death prompted an outpouring of anger and grief from anti-government protesters, who claim that police actions on the night of the accident resulted in paramedics being temporarily unable to access him, a charge the force denies.