(NYT) Hong Kong Police Shoot a Protester With a Live Bullet for the First Time


Riot police officers clashing with protesters near Wong Tai Sin in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Riot police officers clashing with protesters near Wong Tai Sin in Hong Kong on Tuesday.CreditCreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong police on Tuesday shot a demonstrator with a live round for the first time during the city’s monthslong protest movement, three pro-democracy lawmakers said, escalating the territory’s political crisis on the same day that the central government in Beijing staged a huge military parade to celebrate 70 years of Communist control.

The protesters in Hong Kong hoped to upstage Beijing’s celebrations by holding their own unauthorized marches. Violence quickly broke out, as demonstrators in districts across the city engaged in some of the bloodiest and most sustained clashes since protesters began taking to the streets in early June.

The split screen — pageantry in Beijing versus violence, tear gas and street fires in a restive Chinese territory — was hardly the image that China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, had hoped to show the world.

The protester was shot in the Tsuen Wan district of northern Hong Kong, the lawmakers Claudia Mo, James To and Au Nok-hin each said. Tsuen Wan is a working-class area near Hong Kong’s border with the Chinese mainland, miles from the city’s gleaming financial district.

The protester’s condition was not immediately known.

In a video circulating online, an officer is seen firing a handgun at close range at a protester wearing a black T-shirt and a pink gas mask. Another video shows the protester being treated by paramedics. Demonstrations were being held in the area at the time, but it was unclear what had specifically prompted the officer to fire.

Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority later said that 15 people had been sent to the hospital by early Tuesday evening, one of them in critical condition. It did not say whether the person in critical condition was the same protester in the videos of the shooting.

The Hong Kong police have fired hundreds of rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds to disperse street demonstrations since the protests began in June. On a few occasions, officers have fired live rounds into the air as warning shots, typically when they were surrounded by violent protesters.

It was almost certain to further inflame protesters who have accused the police of employing overly aggressive tactics in the streets. Calls for an independent inquiry into the police’s behavior are among the key demands that protesters have issued to the Hong Kong government.