Police broke up a scuffle Tuesday between Beijing supporters and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China. (Oct. 1)
A pro-democracy protester was shot and at least 30 were arrested as violent clashes rocked Hong Kong streets Tuesday as China celebrated the 70th anniversary of communist rule.
While Beijing marked National Day and “national rejuvenation” with a military parade and fireworks, Hong Kong demonstrators held a “national grief” march. Hundreds of black-clad protesters clashed with police who fired water cannons and tear gas into the crowd.
Video shot by a student group appeared to show several protesters hurling objects at pursuing riot police. One officer drew his gun and fired. A protester collapsed on the street as the others fled.
“The so-called National Day is a day for mourning. We are mourning those who sacrificed for democracy in China,” former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan told the South China Morning Post. “It’s 70 years of suppression. We mourn that, and we also condemn the fact that the Hong Kong government together with Chinese government denied the people of Hong Kong the right to democracy.”
Police Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan said police were “saddened” that an 18-year-old man was shot near his left shoulder.
“A large group of rioters attacked police officers,” she said. “As an officer felt his life was under serious threat, he fired a round at the assailant to save his own life and his colleagues’ lives.”
She added that protesters have been repeatedly warned to stop breaking the law.
“The police force really did not want to see anyone being injured, so we feel very sad about this,” she said, adding that “We will strictly enforce the law.”
Pro-democracy residents of Hong Kong have long accused China of slowly encroaching on their rights since Britain handed over administration of the city in 1997. The issue ignited months of massive and increasingly violent protests earlier this year following a government proposal to change extradition laws to allow suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trial.
The Hong Kong government withdrew the proposal, but protesters have seized the momentum to press demands for more freedoms and investigations into police behavior during the protests.
On Tuesday, the government marked the day quietly with a flag raising and reception that were closed to the public. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the target of much of the protesters’ scorn, did not attend, instead spending the day in Beijing for the military parade in Tiananmen Square.
Most stores and businesses were closed in Hong Kong, some to mark the holiday, others to protest it. Several major subway stations and malls, scenes of violence in recent weeks, were shuttered by the government.
In a Facebook post, police warned the public to stay at home and out of the fray.
“There are riots across Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories,” the post read. “Rioters have started fires and committed mass property damage, injuring many people. Police urgently appeal to every member of the public to stay in safe places, avoid going outdoors and stay tuned to the latest situation.”
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