Hong Kong Police Shooting Was an 'Atrocity' That Signals 'Escalating Lethal Suppression,' Joshua Wong Says

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have expressed outrage at the shooting of a young protester during clashes with police on Tuesday, as China celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding.

The protester, who was rushed to hospital in a critical condition and underwent surgery, is the first activist to have been wounded by live ammunition in almost four months of mass demonstrations.

A video of the shooting quickly spread across social media, and the incident came to dominate coverage of Tuesday's demonstrations, which left Hong Kong's subway system on lock down and clouds of acrid smoke hanging over the famous skyline.

The incident took place on Hoi Pa Street in the Tsuen Wan area of the city, north of Hong Kong island. Video of the shooting showed armed riot police charge into a group of activists sporting helmets, goggles and makeshift shields, plus some armed with clubs and metal poles.

A fracas ensued, during which one police officer pointed his revolver and fired a single shot into a protester's chest at point blank range. Most of the other activists fled at the sound of the shot. One fellow marcher stayed behind to try and help the victim, but he was quickly set upon and beaten by police.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said that an 18-year-old man was shot on the left side of his chest. Lo claimed the shooting was "reasonable and lawful" and that the offending officer feared for his life and had no other choice.

But pro-democracy activists have poured scorn on the explanation. They claim that the video of the shooting shows that the police were the aggressors and could have retreated if they felt under threat, rather than resorting to deadly force.

Hundreds of students and office workers took to the streets on Wednesday to protest the shooting. The crowds chanted slogans including, "Hong Kong police intentionally commit murder" and "disband the police force now," according to the Hong Kong Free Press.Elsewhere, students staged sit-ins to express their anger.

On China’s National Day.

1. HK fallen into a de facto police state. No official has spoken publicly yet. The paramilitary security forces completely took over this city. pic.twitter.com/rZaplmbqtf

— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) October 1, 2019

Joshua Wong—an activist who came to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Movement and was jailed for his role in the pro-democracy protests—said the shooting was an "atrocity," and one that was "obviously planned."

Live rounds were fired in several areas of the city, though only one person was confirmed wounded. Wong added that Hong Kong has become "a de facto police state...The paramilitary security forces completely took over this city."

Wong said the use of live ammunition was "both saddening and alarming." He criticized Lo's defense of the shooting, describing his explanation as "enraging."

"Instead of offering any words of calm or at the very least caution, he praised the Police who fired live round to a protester at pointblank range," Wong wrote. "It virtually guarantee Police would repeat such a fit of murderous actions, causing situation to escalate further. Eventually deaths, and a pattern of escalating lethal suppression."

Hong Kong, police, brutality, shooting, Joshua Wong
Schoolmates of a protester who was shot by a policeman during the October 1 protests take part in a solidarity rally outside the Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College on October 02, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Chris McGrath/Getty Images/Getty

Like Wong, Nathan Law was jailed for his part in the Umbrella Movement. Both men helped found the Demosisto pro-democracy organization in the aftermath of the 2014 protests.

Law condemned the "disgusting" police action on Tuesday. "HK police is celebrating the PRC national day by shooting a young activist," he wrote on Twitter. "Shame on the police."

Fellow Demosisto member Agnes Chow said Hong Kongers "will never forget" the shots fired on Tuesday. Chow was arrested alongside Wong in August as police sought to take the momentum out of the protests.