HONG KONG – A Hong Kong police officer killed a teenage protester on Tuesday, the first time in months of protests that a live round was fired at a protester. The shooting ended a night of violent protests, adding to the turmoil of the territory on the same day the central government organized a major military parade in Beijing to commemorate 70 years of communist control.
Protesters in Hong Kong hoped to top Beijing celebrations by holding their own unauthorized marches. Violence erupted rapidly as protesters in city districts were engaging in some of the bloodiest and most constant clashes since protesters began taking to the streets in early June.
The split-screen display – Beijing display versus violence, tear gas and street fires in restless Chinese territory – was hardly the image China's main leader, Xi Jinping, hoped to show the world.
The protester was shot in the Tsuen Wan district of northern Hong Kong. Tsuen Wan is a working-class area near Hong Kong's Chinese mainland border, miles from the city's bright financial district.
Yolanda Yu, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Police Force, said in a video posted on the force's Facebook page that the protester was 18 and was shot in the left shoulder. She said the protester was conscious when he was taken to hospital.
Local media reported that the young man was a high school student.
Yu said the policeman who shot the protester was being attacked by violent "protesters" who were threatening the lives of the police. "To save himself and his colleagues, he fired a shot at the perpetrator," she said.
Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo told reporters at a late-night news conference that doctors were treating the young man who had been shot. He said the protester had been arrested and that authorities would later decide whether to bring charges of assault on a police officer.
Lo said the police officer who shot the protester on Tuesday acted "legally and reasonably" by giving a verbal warning before opening fire. The policeman was attacked at close range, Lo said, and had no choice but to fire a live bullet.
"The range was not determined by the police but by the perpetrator," he said.
The police force too said on Twitter that there were "acts of revolt" on Tuesday in Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories – the three main areas of the city.
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority later said 51 people were sent to hospital early Tuesday night, two of them in critical condition.
In a video circulating online, a police officer is seen firing a pistol at close range into a protester wearing a black T-shirt and a pink gas mask.
In the video, the protester who was shot is first seen joining a crowd of black-clad people chasing a policeman and knocking him to the ground. They kick and beat him with what appear to be metal tubes.
At one point the protester approaches a nearby second policeman with a pistol pointed. Shortly after the protester hits the policeman with the barrel, he shoots at the man at close range.
A few seconds later, an off-screen gas pump – presumably by a protester – falls at the feet of the officer who fired the shot. In another video, the protester who was shot is seen being treated by paramedics.
The video was shot by a reporter from Campus TV, a student-run television station at the University of Hong Kong, and provided to The New York Times by another reporter from the station.
Hong Kong police have fired hundreds of shots of tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags to disperse street demonstrations since protests began in June. On some occasions, police fired live shots in the air as warning shots, usually when surrounded by violent protesters.
Tuesday's shooting would almost certainly ignite protesters who accused police of using overly aggressive street tactics. Requests for an independent investigation into police behavior are among the main demands the protesters issued to the Hong Kong government.
Natalie Chan, a college student who protested Tuesday night in Tuen Mun district, not far from Tsuen Wan, said Hong Kong police were "hurting innocent people."
"We can't let them go on," Chan said of the police as other protesters banged on traffic lights and shop and restaurant windows.