Hong Kong protests: man shot by police and burns victim in critical condition

Lily Kuo Beijing bureau chief

Two people are in a critical condition in Hong Kong after another day of protests and violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police that left more than 60 people injured.

A police officer shot an unarmed 21-year-old male university student in the stomach as demonstrators attempted to disrupt the Monday morning rush hour as part of a day of planned protests and strikes.

Later in the day, a middle-aged man was doused in a flammable liquid and set on fire after arguing with protesters. Both the student and the man were in critical condition, according to Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority.

Related: Hong Kong protests: student who fell from parking lot during demonstrations dies

The two incidents, both captured on video, come after the death of a protester on Friday who succumbed to injuries sustained after falling from a car park during a police dispersal of demonstrators. It was the first death directly linked to police action.

The shooting and the man being set on fire, following closely after the death, could mark a turning point in five months of protests, which have grown increasingly violent.

Monday’s incident is the third time police have shot demonstrators with live rounds. In the two previous cases, officers claimed they fired in self defence and the demonstrators, both teenagers, recovered. Some demonstrators have also grown increasingly violent, mobbing and beating critics and others they believe to be mainland spies.

“With both sides digging in, the conflict is likely to escalate,” said Ho-Fung Hung, a professor in political economy and chair of the department of sociology at Johns Hopkins University.

“With this televised shooting of an unarmed protesters point blank … the militant protesters would believe more firmly they have to fight back by any means necessary, and the public opinion will be further against the police and the government,” he said. “A war has started.”

Protesters use a catapult to launch a milk carton at riot police during protests in the central district of Hong Kong on Monday. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

The shooting, captured by local media Cupid Producer, showed a police officer struggling to subdue a protester firing three live rounds at nearby demonstrators. One protester, shot at close range in the torso, fell to the ground and was seen lying in a pool of blood. He appeared to be conscious and later attempted to run from police but was quickly caught.

The police said the officer had shot the demonstrator to prevent him from grabbing his revolver. “When a police officer uses force he has to consider the consequences. Remember, the police force faces a lot of life-threatening situations … A police officer has to protect himself,” a spokesman said, stressing that all officers must justify any use of force.

(February 1, 2019) 

A new Hong Kong extradition law is proposed, which would allow people to be transferred to mainland China for a variety of crimes. Residents fear it could lead to politically motivated extraditions into China's much harsher judicial system.

(March 31, 2019) 

Large public demonstrations start as thousands march in the streets to protest against the extradition bill.

(May 11, 2019) 

Hong Kong lawmakers scuffle in parliament during a row over the law.

(May 30, 2019) 

Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, introduces concessions to the extradition bill, including limiting the scope of extraditable offences, but critics say they are not enough.

(June 12, 2019) 

The scale of protests continues to increase as more than half a million people take to the streets. Police use rubber bullets and teargas against the biggest protests Hong Kong has seen for decades.

(June 15, 2019) 

Lam says the proposed extradition law has been postponed indefinitely.

(July 1, 2019) 

The protests continue as demonstrators storm the Legislative Council, destroying pictures, daubing graffiti on the walls and flying the old flag of Hong Kong emblazoned with the British union flag. The protests coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the UK back to China.

(July 21, 2019) 

Armed men in white T-shirts thought to be supporting the Chinese government attack passengers and passers-by in Yuen Long metro station, while nearby police take no action.

(July 30, 2019) 

44 protesters are charged with rioting, which further antagonises the anti-extradition bill movement.

(September 1, 2019) 

By now the protest movement has coalesced around five key demands: complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, withdrawal of the use of the word "riot" in relation to the protests, unconditional release of arrested protesters and charges against them dropped, an independent inquiry into police behaviour and the implementation of genuine universal suffrage.

(September 15, 2019) 

The mass protests enter their fifteenth week, with police resorting to teargas and water cannon against the demonstrators, and a wave of "doxxing" using digital techniques to unmask police and protesters as a new front in the battle.

(October 1, 2019) 

Police shoot a protester with live ammunition for the first time, as demonstrations continue on the day marking the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the People's Republic of China.

(October 7, 2019) 

The first charges are brought against protesters for covering their faces, after authorities bring in new laws banning face masks in order to make it easier to identify or detain protesters.

(October 11, 2019) 

Hong Kong officials spark outrage in the city as it revealed that nearly a third of protesters arrested since June have been children. Seven hundred and 50 out of the 2,379 people arrested  were under 18, and 104 were under 16.

(October 16, 2019) 

Lam is forced to deliver a key annual policy speech via video link after after being heckled in parliament, as the legislative council resumed sessions after it was suspended on 12 June. Later in the day one of the protest leaders, Jimmy Sham, was attacked by assailants wielding hammers and knives.

(October 23, 2019) 

Chan Tong-kai, the murder suspect whose case prompted the original extradition bill is released from prison, saying that he is willing to surrender himself to Taiwan. The extradition bill is also formally withdrawn, a key demand of protesters.

Footage of the man who was set on fire emerged in the afternoon, as protesters in various locations lit fires, vandalised public transit stations and traffic lights, and hurled petrol bombs at police.

Video showed a man yelling “You are not Chinese!” at a group of young people on an overpass in Ma On Shan in Hong Kong’s New Territories. Someone appears to lunge forward, pouring liquid over the man before setting him alight.

Skirmishes broke out throughout Hong Kong on Monday as the police fired teargas and pepper spray and aimed their firearms at residents and demonstrators in multiple locations, including Hong Kong’s central business district.

In one incident, a police officer on a motorbike drove weaved in and out of a crowd of protesters on a road before hitting one, dragging the demonstrator along the road. The police later said the officer had been suspended and the incident would be investigated.

“Hong Kong police gone nuts,” the pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo tweeted alongside a video of the scene. “They seem to truly think they’re above the law. This has been almost like Tiananmen Square in slow motion.”

In Sai Wan Ho, a woman rushed at the police after the shooting and was subdued as residents called the officers “murderers”. Some threw plastic crates at the police, who pepper-sprayed the crowd.

Demonstrators faced off with riot police outside of universities, seen as havens over recent months by protesters, many of them students. Demonstrators at Polytechnic University threw petrol bombs at police and set a barricade made out of ladders and noticeboards on fire in a huge blaze later put out by firefighters.

Earlier, police said protesters had blocked the Cross Harbour tunnel, linking Kowloon to Hung Hom. Several mass transit railway (MTR) lines were delayed or suspended as some protesters smashed gates at stations. The MTR said a protester had thrown two petrol bombs into a carriage carrying commuters.

Riot police arrest a protester in the Wong Tai Sin district of Hong Kong. Photograph: Billy HC Kwok/Getty Images

After several schools postponed classes on Monday, three universities cancelled classes on Tuesday as well in view of “escalating tension and unrest”.

At a “citizens’ press conference” organised by protesters, there were calls for indefinite mass strikes.

Speaking to reporters, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said: “If there is still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence the government will yield to pressure… I am making this clear and loud here. That will not happen.”

Hong Kong faces its most serious political crisis in decades as protests, which began in response to an extradition bill that would send suspects to mainland China, have taken on new demands, chief among them an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.

The Hong Kong government has repeatedly said that an inquiry by Hong Kong’s police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council, would suffice. But last week, a panel of experts appointed to advise the council said the watchdog lacked the authority and resources to effectively conduct an investigation.

Demonstrators march along a main thoroughfare in Central district. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty

The protests also pose a direct challenge to the “one country, two systems” framework under which Beijing maintains control over Hong Kong. Demonstrators are also demanding the right to elect their own leader without interference from Beijing.

China has shown no sign it is willing to make such concessions. Zhang Xiaoming, China’s top official overseeing Hong Kong affairs, said on Saturday that Beijing would ensure only those loyal to the central government would serve as leader.

“The administrative, legislative, and judicial organs of the Hong Kong special administrative region must be mainly comprised of patriots,” he said.