HONG KONG, Oct. 1 (UPI) — On a day that China put on a display of military might to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, widespread protests in Hong Kong escalated to a new level of violence that saw police shoot a protester in the chest with a live round.
The victim, a high school student, was reported to be in critical condition by local media.
Video of the shooting, which shows an office firing at the protester’s chest at close range, was captured by a number of sources, including the University of Hong Kong Student Union’s Campus TV, which posted it on its Facebook page.
A statement from Hong Kong activist group Citizens Press Conference condemned what it called “the new heights of police heartlessness.”
organization against its people,” the statement, which was co-signed by political party Demosisto and other activist groups, read.
Clashes between protesters and police took place throughout the day and continued late into the evening in multiple locations throughout the city. Police forces deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds and made multiple arrests while protesters set fires and vandalized specific targets, such as subway stations and outlets of Chinese state-owned businesses such as the Bank of China.
According to the Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority, 51 people were injured on Tuesday, including two in critical condition and two in serious condition.
Protesters defied a police ban on holding a rally and marched from Causeway Bay to the Central district, dressed in black and carrying black flags on what organizers called a day of mourning. Many threw joss paper, or “spirit money” traditionally burned for ancestors, to add to the funereal spirit of the march.
“Today is China’s National Day, and we are marching to mourn their 70th anniversary,” Lee Cheuk-yan, a former politician who was one of the organizers of Tuesday’s march, told UPI. “For 70 years, [the Chinese government] has persecuted people and many have died. We are mourning for the dead and we will continue to fight for democracy.”
On Tuesday morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping boasted in a speech that no force could hinder China’s development.
“There is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation,” Xi said, according to an official translation of his address. “No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead.”
Xi reviewed a military parade of some 15,000 troops and a trove of the communist state’s latest hardware including advanced hypersonic and intercontinental missiles.
“When we look at China’s military parade, it shows us that they have nothing but brute force,” said Lee. “They want to threaten us, but this march today without any permit shows the defiance of the people of Hong Kong.”
Another protester, Wong Cheung, 70, said he didn’t bother watching Beijing’s display of might.
“I don’t want to see it,” said Wong. “We’re not scared of them. We must fight for the future of Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong’s protest movement has entered its 18th week with little sign of fading. What began as a response to a proposed extradition bill that would have sent fugitive criminal suspects to mainland China has evolved into a movement looking to hold onto autonomy in legal and political affairs under Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” arrangement with Beijing.
The protesters have put forth five demands, which include not just the withdrawal of the extradition bill, but an investigation into police brutality during the demonstrations, amnesty for arrested protesters and direct elections to choose the city’s politicians.