Hong Kong police on Tuesday fired around 1,400 tear gas canisters and over 1,300 projectiles – setting a new record for less-lethal ammunition fired by the city’s law enforcement in a single day.
Police top brass also defended the shooting of a teenage protester with live ammunition, saying that the officer was “aiming for centre mass” in accordance with international standards.
“Some people have never received any professional firearms training. What is their basis to question the police’s professional judgement?” said Chief Superintendent John Tse at a press conference on Wednesday.
On National Day – which saw the People’s Republic of China celebrate its 70th anniversary – Hong Kong police made 269 arrests, which also set a new single-day record since the protest movement began in June. Police arrested 178 men and 91 women who range from 12 to 71, with some suspected of unlawful assembly or possessing offensive weapons.
The day’s protests started with a banned march on Hong Kong Island, which turned violent in the afternoon as police deployed water cannon, tear gas and other crowd-control weapons. Protesters were spotted throwing Molotov cocktails and setting fire to barricades.
Fierce clashes also broke out in Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Wong Tai Sin, Sham Shui Po and other districts across Hong Kong. Police said that 30 officers were hurt during the protests, with five still hospitalised.
At the daily press briefing, Deputy Commissioner of Police Tang Ping-keung said that the force had been “well-prepared, confident and determined” to restore public order.
“Restoring public order does not only count on police effort, everyone in society plays a part. We need everyone in Hong Kong to obey the law, not to tolerate violence, and to condemn violence,” Tang said.
Also on Wednesday, police continued to defend the shooting of Tsang Chi-kin, aged 18, by showing news clips of Tuesday’s incident in Tsuen Wan. The F.5 student was shot in his left lung – three centimetres from his heart – and remains in a stable condition after surgery.
Police cited a video analysis by the New York Times, but omitted the parts where the reporter raised questions about the legality of the move. In the omitted section, the Times reporter said that the officer had the option to use less-lethal weapons, and that he “does not appear to warn the protesters he is about to shoot.”
In a response posted on Twitter, the paper’s communication team said they “encourage everyone to watch the complete video,” which “provides a comprehensive picture of the incident.”
Both the police commissioner and the deputy have insisted that the shooting was “lawful and reasonable,” though conceded that the force still needed to conduct an investigation into what happened. In the meantime, police said they see no reason to suspend the officer from active duty.
Chief Superintendent Tse said that some critics of the police who issued statements – including groups in the medical and educations sectors – were guilty of “double standards” as they did not also condemn violence against officers.
In a video published on Wednesday, police were seen ignoring the gunshot victim for at least three minutes, leaving him lying on the ground. Police also refused an offer from a paramedic on the scene to offer emergency treatment.
Officers were heard asking for an ambulance about five minutes after the protester was shot. Asked about whether the police delayed treatment, Tse said that officers needed to secure the area as there were still violent protesters.
“We should not ignore the dangers present at the scene,” he said. “After the danger passed, we provided basic first aid to the victim, so I don’t see how we had any delay in giving medical treatment.”
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui said that he will launch a private criminal prosecution against the officer who shot the protester, under the charges of “attempted murder” and “attempting to shoot with intent to do grievous bodily harm.” The maximum penalty for the charges is life imprisonment.
Hui said that the move was to “counter the government” as there was no other feasible way for the protester to seek justice. The officer’s intent was to kill instead of self-defence, he added.
At the protester-organised Citizens Press Conference, a representative said that the shooting meant that Hong Kong had entered a “state of war” – though he later told reporters he meant the phrase figuratively.
He called on the public to take part in another strike action, and to continue non-cooperation activities in different sectors.
On Wednesday, a police spokesperson issued a statement condemning the protests, adding that the violent acts by “radical protesters” are “spreading and escalating drastically, including the use of fatal violence to attack police officers.”
“Public safety has been jeopardised and the public order of the whole city is being pushed to the verge of a very dangerous situation,” the spokesperson said.
A government spokesperson also described the events on National Day as a “planned and organised, leading Hong Kong to a chaotic and panic state.” The city has seen 17 consecutive weeks of protest sparked by a now-scrapped extradition bill which would have enabled fugitive transfers to China.
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