Hong Kong police opened fire and wounded at least one protester on Monday, witnesses and media reports said, a fresh escalation of violence as anti-government demonstrations enter their sixth month.
Police fired live rounds at protesters on the eastern side of Hong Kong island, Cable TV, South China Morning Post and The Hong Kong Free Press reported. Cable TV said one protester was wounded when police opened fire.
Video footage showed a protester lying in a pool of blood with his eyes wide open. Police also pepper-sprayed and subdued a woman nearby as plastic crates were thrown at officers, the video shared on social media showed.
The Hospital Authority told Reuters a 21-year-old man suspected to have been wounded during the incident in Sai Wan Ho was admitted to hospital on Monday and was undergoing an operation.
Cable TV reported the unidentified protester was in a critical condition.
Police said in a statement radical protesters had set up barricades at multiple locations across the city and warned the demonstrators to “stop their illegal acts immediately.”
They did not comment immediately on the apparent shooting.
Police first began using live rounds as warning shots in August and have shot an 18-year-old protester and a 14-year-old, both of whom survived.
Anson Yip, a 36-year-old Sai Wan Ho resident, said protesters were throwing rubbish to create a road block when police, possibly from the traffic department, ran to the scene.
“They didn’t fight and the police ran and directly shot. There was three sounds, like ‘pam, pam, pam’,” Yip said.
“They (the protesters) are against the government, that’s why the police just shot them,” he said.
A Reuters witness said police later fired tear gas in the same area where the protester was shot. After police forensic teams left the scene, protesters and local residents formed a barricade of polystyrene boxes around the bloodstain next to a pedestrian crossing.
A 24-year-old man, one of several office workers gathered at the scene after the shooting, said: “When I arrived the road was blocked and people were yelling at the police, calling them murderers.” The man gave only his surname of Wing.
Protests have occurred at times daily, sometimes with little or no notice, disrupting business and piling pressure on the city’s beleaguered government.
Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the former British colony’s freedoms, guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
The latest violence comes after a student died in the hospital last week following a fall as protesters were being dispersed by police.
Violence flared at several university campuses throughout the morning as news spread of the shooting, with witnesses reporting tense standoffs between students, protesters and police. Police fired teargas and rubber bullets, witnesses said, while protesters hurled homemade petrol bombs at police at one location.
“I am worried about my safety but I will still come out,” said Anson, a 20-year-old student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University who only gave his first name. “I am willing to sacrifice my life for Hong Kong.”
Services on some train and subway lines were disrupted early on Monday, with traffic snarled and riot police deployed near stations and shopping malls.
The Labour Department urged all employers on Monday to be understanding and flexible regarding work arrangements.
Hong Kong’s stock market fell 1.6% in early trade, outpacing losses of 0.7% in other parts of the region.
Activists blocked roads and trashed shopping malls across Hong Kong’s New Territories and Kowloon peninsula on Sunday during a 24th straight weekend of anti-government unrest.