Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defended police actions and slammed protesters as “rioters” during a press conference on Nov. 11 evening to address escalated violence in the city.
On Monday morning, a 21-year-old protester was shot in the abdomen at close range by a police officer in the neighborhood of Sai Wan Ho. He is currently in critical condition.
In the Kwai Fong area, a police officer was seen riding a police motorcycle into a crowd of protesters, knocking at least one protester to the ground before speeding away. Lam said the involved officer has been placed on leave and will be investigated.
Violence spread to multiple universities as police entered school grounds and fired tear gas in confrontations with protesters. At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, protesters threw petrol bombs at police officers, who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas. At the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, police entered the school campus and chased protesters, but left without making arrests.
“If there is still any wishful thinking, that by escalating violence, the Hong Kong SAR [special administrative region] government will yield to pressure, to satisfy the so-called political demands—I am making this statement clear and loud here: that will not happen,” Lam said.
She added that if the demands of “rioters” were fulfilled, she would be “reassured” that there would be more violence.
She also lashed out at protesters for organizing a citywide strike on Monday, saying that “violent activities and disturbances” had affected many in Hong Kong, as people could not get to work or go to school.
Following the death of Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old computer science student who died from cardiac arrest on Nov. 8, protesters blocked on Monday called for a general strike, blocking roads with makeshift barricades. Some also disrupted public transportation using different means: preventing subway doors from closing, throwing items on the rails, and setting a station on fire. Many metro stations were closed while some light rail service was delayed in response.
Chow’s death has been attributed to police action. Officers had fired tear gas into a parking garage in Tseung Kwan O shortly before he fell from one story and sustained severe brain injuries. Police have denied any responsibility in his death.
Lam said the strike had resulted in more than 60 people being injured, including the protester who was shot and a man who was set on fire. Lam said both were in critical condition.
According to local broadcaster RTHK, a middle-aged man got into an argument with a group of people in the afternoon in the Ma On Shan neighborhood. While precise details of the argument were not known, the group shouted at the man to go back to the Greater Bay Area, referring to a region of southern China that borders Hong Kong.
The dispute escalated, with one person pouring a liquid over the man and setting him on fire.
Police later said the man was engaged in an argument with pro-democracy protesters, but did not identify the perpetrator. Still, Lam was quick to point out that “rioters” were responsible, and that their action was “inhumane.” She also called them “enemy of the people.”
A reporter asked about the protester who was shot and why the police officer used his service weapon when the protester did not try to physically attack the group of officers. Lam responded by saying that a police press conference earlier had already addressed this. She added that police will watch video footage and take statements to investigate the incident.
During the police’s daily press conference on Monday, Kwok Pak-chung, regional commander of Hong Kong Island, said the police officer who opened fire was defending his own safety, as at least one nearby protester was holding a metal pole.
In a widely circulated video of the incident, one police officer pointed his gun at point-blank range at a protester wearing a white hoodie before grabbing him by the neck.
A second protester dressed in black approached the officer and then tried to swat the gun from his hand. He was shot by the police officer at close range and collapsed to the ground.
Two more protesters approached the officer from behind, and the officer fired two more shots at close range. One of the protesters also fell to the ground.
As for Chow’s death, Lam said there will be a coroner’s inquiry, and the police will cooperate with the inquiry to find out the cause behind his death.
Commenting on the protesters’ new slogan of “disbanding the police,” Lam said people needed to think about what Hong Hong could become without its police force. She added that the police had been repeatedly smeared.