Violence erupts as thousands protest on 70th anniversary of communist rule in China

Hong Kong police have shot a protester with live ammunition for the first time in four months of demonstrations, marking a major escalation in the use of force on a day when China celebrated 70 years of Communist party rule with a triumphalist military parade.

Protests called to mark a national day of grief drew tens of thousands of people on to the citys streets, across six areas, in the most widespread show yet of public anger towards Beijing.

Some gathered in central Hong Kong, while others met up across the harbour in Kowloon and the New Territories beyond. Initially peaceful, the demonstrations turned into running battles. Authorities shut down nearly half the citys metro stations in an attempt to contain the violence.

Police in full riot gear used water cannon and barrages of teargas, while protesters threw molotov cocktails, built barricades, attacked metro stations and lit fires in the street.

Anti-government
Anti-government protesters vandalise an MTR public transport station in Hong Kong. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

The scenes, though extremely violent, did not mark a departure from previous protests until mid-afternoon, when a policeman drew his gun and fired a bullet into an 18-year-old high school students chest in Tsuen Wan district.

Images shared by local media showed the protester lying on the ground begging for help as he bled from his injury. Send me to hospital, my chest is hurting. I need to go to hospital, he said.

Although warning shots have been fired during other protests, police have caused serious injury with rubber bullets and beanbag rounds, and groups including Amnesty International have condemned excessive use of force, this was the first time someone has been hit with a live round.

A video posted by the Hong Kong University Students Union appeared to show the policeman shooting the protester at point blank range with a pistol.

Other footage shared by local RTHK network appears to show the policeman running away from his fellow officers in pursuit of protesters standing several metres away, with his gun already drawn and pointed at the group before he opens fire. It could not be independently verified.

Police Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan said the incident was heartbreaking and claimed the officer acted in self-defence. The police officers lives were seriously threatened. To save his own and his colleagues lives, he fired a live shot at the attacker, she said in a video message posted online.

The UK said the use of live ammunition was disproportionate, while Amnesty International called for an urgent and independent investigation.

Map of key incidents in Hong Kong

Crowds gathered in central Hong Kong, where police were using water cannon and teargas, fell silent when they heard someone had been shot.

But violence soon resumed, and in some places intensified, as protesters faced off with police into the evening. Later a journalist from the local RTHK network was taken to hospital after a projectile hit him in the face, prompting the network to withdraw all its reporters from the streets.

Health authorities said 51 people were injured in the protests, the youngest only 11 and the oldest 75. Two were in a critical condition, and two in a serious condition.

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Hong Kong protesters use chairs as barricade during riots video

Hong Kong has been gripped by protests since June. Sparked by a controversial extradition bill, they have morphed into a wider and increasingly violent anti-government movement channelling residents anger and frustration at the erosion of rights under Chinese rule.

Quick guide

What are the five demands of the Hong Kong protesters?

The complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill

Hong Kongs leader,Carrie Lam, has said her government will formally withdraw the bill that ignited months of protests. Hong Kong residents had feared it could be used by China to extradite people for political reasons. They want guarantees that it cannot be reintroduced at a later date.

Withdrawal of the use of the word ‘riot’ in relation to the protests

Protesters want the government to officially recognise that their movement has been a series of legitimate protests, rather than a riot, as has been stated in official communications.

Unconditional release of arrested protesters and charges against them dropped

Hundreds of people have been arrested in recent weeks, and the protesters are demanding that all of them be freed, and that no convictions should stand against any of them.

An independent inquiry into police behaviour

Police use of force has escalated since the demonstrations began, while protesters have also resorted to increasingly violent measures. Demonstrators say an inquiry into police brutality is the number-one priority.

Implementation of genuine universal suffrage

Hong Kong’s chief executive is currently selected by a 1,200-member committee, and nearly half of the 70 legislative council seats are filled by limited electorates representing different sectors of the economy. The protesters want to be able to vote for their leaders in free and open democratic elections.

Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/X06783

Tuesdays marchers had already defied a police ban to turn out in large numbers. Organisers wanted to mark the 70th anniversary of communist China as a day of mourning not celebration, and tens of thousands came out in response.

We want to show people this is not a happy anniversary, said Richard Hung, who works in the technology sector. The CCP [Chinese Communist party] has killed or injured so many millions of people already. We have come out today, because if we dont, we may not have another chance.

For the first few hours, the main march through the city centre was peaceful, with protesters dressed largely in black singing glory to Hong Kong, scattering paper money used for funeral offerings, and scrawling protest slogans on streets, bus stations and shops seen as pro-Beijing.

Graffiti included anti-China messages mocking the days celebrations across the border, calls for freedom and democracy, and a warning with a prophetic ring that has become a protest staple: if you burn, we burn with you.

Many families and young children were among the crowds at first. You can see, we dont have any protective gear, said Terrence, a logistics worker walking with his eight-year-old daughter. We want freedom, and dont want to belong to China.

Riot
Riot police clash with protesters in the Sha Tin district of Hong Kong. Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

Still, a large proportion of protesters wore face masks or carried umbrellas, to stop them being filmed or identified by authorities who have already arrested hundreds. Some have been charged with rioting, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years.

Police had said ahead of Tuesday that they feared violent protests, and made a string of raids and arrests, claiming to have uncovered bomb-making equipment and ingredients.

Aggressive policing and the scale of the recent violence fuelled fears that authorities might use it as a pretext to bring in draconian emergency legislation, which would allow the government to arrest people at will, and control the press and communications, in the name of stability.

It seems there is no sign of this coming to an end until the government is determined to clamp down, said pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who has previously called for an emergency law, in a statement carried by the South China Morning Post.

Police
Police fire teargas canisters during a demonstration. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

The day began with an episode of police aggression, when officers used pepper spray on a small group of protesters outside the governments official flag-raising ceremony and national day reception, which was closed to the public.

It was calm throughout the morning, as Beijing celebrated its anniversary and rise to super-power status with a military parade showing off its latest hardware, and a civilian procession celebrating everything from communist heroes to agriculture and bicycles.

Timeline

People’s Republic of China at 70

After more than 20 years of civil war, Mao Zedong leads the communists to victory over the nationalists, and proclaims the founding of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October.

China launches a five-year economic plan, the “Great Leap Forward”, collectivising farming and investing in heavy industry. The plan is abandoned after two years after poor harvests lead to starvation and millions of deaths.

The 10-year “Cultural Revolution” causes economic and political upheaval, as Mao attempts to purge communist China of remaining capitalist and traditional elements of society, and enforce Maoism as the dominant and permanent ideology.

Chairman Mao dies.

China’s “one-child policy” is introduced to curb population growth.

The opening of the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges symbolise the increasing economic liberalisation of China.

Control of Hong Kong is handed back to China from the UK. Two years later Portugal transfers the sovereignty of Macau back to the Chinese.

China joins the World Trade Organization.

Yang Liwei becomes the first Chinese astronaut. Within 10 years the country will successfully deploy a robot rover on the moon.

After years of tension, including riots over how Japanese schoolbooks are accused of portraying the events of the second world war, and tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea, Wen Jiabao becomes the first Chinese prime minister to address Japan’s parliament.

Beijing hosts the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

China overtakes Germany as the world’s biggest exporter of goods. The following year it becomes the world’s second-largest economy, over-taking Japan.

The Chinese economic “miracle” falters, as growth falls to its lowest level for 25 years.

China becomes increasingly embroiled in a trade war with the US.

A series of major pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong challenge Chinese rule there. The country’s human rights record also comes under scrutiny for its treatment of the Uighurs, with claims that more than 1 million of them have been detained in camps the Chinese have euphemistically calledvocational education centres.

Hong Kongs protesters began turning out only after those events wrapped up, preparing their own response to mark the day.

Its National Day but there is nothing to be happy about in Hong Kong, said Sarah, 17. Were under one party rule and the Communist party controls our government.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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