As the Chinese Communist Party was celebrating its 70th year of rule over the country on Oct. 1, protesters across Hong Kong were calling it a “day of mourning.”
In a direct challenge to Beijing, Hongkongers staged demonstrations in at least seven districts across the city. Cat-and-mouse clashes later ensued, resulting in the most widespread violence since the protests began in early June.
During the chaotic melee, an officer opened fire and shot a teenage protester in the chest, who is now in critical condition, according to local media reports.
It marked the first time a protester has been shot by a live round during almost four months of protests against Chinese communist encroachment into the city.
‘Nothing to Celebrate’
More than 100,000 protesters joined a march in the afternoon in central Hong Kong, defying a police ban, with many hoisting banners that read, “There’s no national celebration, there’s only national mourning.”
As they marched, protesters tossed yellow joss paper, a popular ritual during traditional Chinese funerals, while others burned a Chinese national flag.
“Over the past few months, Hongkongers are no longer afraid of death … so how can you use death to threaten them?” an elderly man surnamed Wong told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times during the march.
Now 73, Wong has been a regular in the protests, taking it upon himself to shield young protesters at the frontlines. He said he was previously pepper-sprayed in the face while trying to dissuade police from arresting a teenage protester.
He stressed that the right to demonstrate is embedded in Hong Kong’s Basic Law—the city’s mini-constitution.
Yet the Chinese regime’s failure to honor Hongkongers’ basic rights, he said, has caused public trust to erode.
“Why would … Hong Kong citizens come out [to demonstrate] in black?” Wong said. “The Beijing authorities should give it some thought.”
Hong Kong singer and activist Denise Ho also echoed Wong’s sentiment in an interview with The Epoch Times’s sister media NTD.
She said the fact that Hongkongers chose to participate in an illegal rally to stand up for their rights was “an embarrassment to the whole Chinese regime.”
Despite Beijing wanting to demonstrate its power and military strength on its anniversary, “this is the reality of the regime of China,” she said.
“[There’s] no reason for celebration … the ‘national day’ is not a good day,” a middle-aged man who gave the name Cary told NTD during the march.
He said he was marching on behalf of his late son, who passed away exactly five years ago in a car accident. His son had participated in the 2014 mass pro-democracy protests known as the Umbrella Movement.
He also criticized the Hong Kong government and police for their handling of the ongoing protests.
“They have always … asked the Hong Kong people to obey the law, but they didn’t,” he said, citing multiple instances since June wherein police beat up protesters indiscriminately and made arbitrary arrests.
In the afternoon, a teenage protester was shot in the chest with a live round at close range during clashes with riot police at Tsuen Wan.
Footage of the incident shows police wielding metal bars, clashing with protesters, before an officer shoots the young man at close range.
As the wounded man steps back and falls, someone tries to help, but another officer tackles him to the ground. Further footage shows the protester bleeding from his chest and being treated by medics at the scene.
The bullet pierced into the protester’s left lung and came close to his heart, Apple Daily reported. The young protester, who was in 11th grade, was in a coma and suffered several fractured ribs, the outlet reported.
Officers also fired six live rounds as warning shots in multiple locations, the police chief said. He reported that there were no civilian injuries from those warning shots. Elsewhere, police deployed water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets to disperse protesters in multiple areas across the city.
— janee (@janehopper_) October 1, 2019
Petrol bombs were thrown outside central government offices and several metro stations.
At Mong Kok police station, a photographer from the local broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) was reportedly shot in the knee with rubber bullets. In the evening, the police arrested a reporter from Local Press who was live-streaming the protest.
RTHK said it was recalling all its reporters away from the violence after a journalist was injured on the corner of his right eye with a projectile during the melee.
The police chief defended the officer who shot the protester in the chest, saying that he had acted out of self-defense, and that his use of force was “legal and reasonable.”
Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said that at least 31 people were hospitalized with two in critical condition.
Police added that 180 people were arrested on the day.
Dominic Raab, British foreign secretary, criticized the use of live ammunition.
“Whilst there is no excuse for violence, the use of live ammunition is disproportionate, and only risks inflaming the situation,” Raab said in a statement.
U.S. lawmakers Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) also expressed concern about the shooting.
The Citizens Press Conference (CPC), speaking on behalf of the protesters, said that the day’s events revealed the Chinese Communist Party’s true nature to the world.
“What kind of government shoots its own people in the heart? The Hong Kong-Chinese murderous regime,” read a statement co-signed by the CPC and several other pro-democracy groups.
This article has been updated to clarify police statements regarding the use of live ammunition.