A Hong Kong policeman shot a masked protester in the torso on Monday morning, igniting clashes across the city and renewed fury towards the force as crowds took to the streets to block roads and hurl insults at officers.
The incident happened outside at the intersection of Shing On Street and Tai Shek Street at about 7-8 am. It was captured by “Cupid News” in a live video.
Netizens had vowed on the internet that they would block traffic as part of a citywide strike and boycott schools and colleges. Masked radical protesters blocked the roads in different districts from 7am.
In Sai Wan Ho, a number of masked protesters started throwing debris onto the road before a policeman rushed to confront them, RTHK reported.
The officer – wearing a high visibility jacket – drew his weapon and pointed it straight at one person wearing a white hoodie at point-blank range, before putting him in a headlock.
A black-shirted person then approached. The officer immediately turned his gun on him and opened fire from close range. Local media reported the man who was shot was a 21-year-old student and he was in a critical condition.
Seconds later, two more live rounds were fired as the officer scuffled with another masked protester who fell to the ground. Both were detained by officers.
Hong Kong police said live rounds were fired and that one person was struck.
Angry people started demanding an explanation for the shooting but were pepper-sprayed by riot police.
“I don’t understand why the police has to use that kind of brutality to hurt innocent people. I think it’s just out of sense, out of control,” a 22-year-old IT worker, who gave her surname Chan, told AFP as she joined angry crowds in Sai Wan Ho after the shooting.
Another woman who continued to confront the officers was thrown to the ground which further enraged the crowd.
An ambulance arrived about six minutes after the incident, by which time the first man, who was still lying in a pool of blood, appeared to be motionless.
Following the shooting, police cordoned off the area, but a large crowd of protesters quickly gathered at the intersection, yelling abuse at the officers.
Hong Kong has been upended by 24 consecutive weeks of huge and increasingly violent rallies, but Beijing has refused to give in to a movement calling for greater democratic rights and police accountability.
Tensions have soared in recent days following the death on Friday of a 22-year-old student, who succumbed to injuries sustained from a fall in the vicinity of a police clearance operation the weekend before.
The city has seen four days of violent protests since Alex Chow’s death as well as tens of thousands attending peaceful mass vigils.
Using online messaging forums, activists had called for a general strike on Monday morning.
Flashmob protests sprung up in multiple districts during the commuter period, with small groups of masked protesters targeting subway stations and building barricades on road junctions.
Even before the shooting in Sai Wan Ho, tear gas had been fired in at least two other locations.
Another video circulating online appears to show a traffic officer on his motorcycle, knocking over several protesters on Hing Fong Road in Kwai Fong. He is seen circling around in an apparent intentional attempt to run people over.
As footage of the shooting went viral, the protests snowballed.
During the lunchtime break in Central, a downtown district that hosts blue-chip international conglomerates and luxury retailers, police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters, many dressed in office attire, chanting “Murderers” and “Triads.”
Many expressed anger over the shooting that morning.
“He was not carrying any weapon, what threat could he pose on the officer,” a 29-year-old office worker, who gave her first name Elaine, told AFP as fellow office workers coughed and wretched from the acrid clouds.
Tear gas and rubber bullets were fired in multiple districts throughout the morning, including at two university campuses and in multiple districts across the harbor.
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Additional reporting by AFP