China says that the shooting of an 18-year-old schoolboy in the chest by police was “totally legal, legitimate, and appropriate” as pro-Beijing lawmakers demand emergency legislation to crackdown on protesters.
Secondary school student Tsang Chi Kin became the first protester to be shot by a live round since pro-democracy protests began in June. Tsang, who is in a stable condition after undergoing surgery on his left lung, was among tens of thousands of protesters who marched through Hong Kong on Tuesday in what turned out to be one of the most violent days in the city’s history.
In Beijing, where President Xi Jinping was overseeing lavish National Day celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, there was little sympathy for Tsang or any of the dozens of protesters who were hospitalized on Tuesday.
“Rioters attacked police officers on a great scale,” the state-run Xinhua news agency said in an editorial on Wednesday morning. “The life of the officer at the scene was under serious threat and he was forced to shoot at the assailant to protect his own life as well as his colleagues. [His] action was totally legal, legitimate and appropriate.”
The commentary described the level of violence as “crazy.”
However, detailed video analysis of the incident shows that the officer in question could have used non-lethal weapons to subdue to the protester, including rubber bullets or pepper spray. None of the half-a-dozen officers at the scene immediately attended to the injured schoolboy who was bleeding profusely from his chest.
Hundreds of students, staff, and alumni of Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College, where Tsang went to school, gathered for a sit-in outside its gates on Wednesday morning. Hundreds of others took part in their own impromptu protests at the shooting across the city on Wednesday.
Protesters also gathered outside West Kowloon Court on Wednesday as 96 people aged between 14 and 41 who were arrested at protests on Sunday, appeared on charges of rioting.
Tuesday marked the most violent day in the four-month-long protests, with police saying they police say they fired 1400 rounds of tear gas; 900 rubber bullets; 420 other less-lethal rounds and six live rounds.
In total 269 activists were arrested, ranging in age from 12 to 71.
But following Tuesday’s clashes, pro-Beijing lawmakers are now called for new laws to curb protesters’ actions.
“It was a reasonable and legal action in line with regulations,” Gary Chan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said of the officer’s actions, adding that “the government should consider enacting an emergency law to stop the riots as soon as possible.”
Priscilla Leung, a pro-Chinese lawmaker with the Business and Professionals Alliance said the government led by Carrie Lam “should consider setting up special courts.”
However, any move to impose Hong Kong’s Emergency Regulations Ordinance, which was introduced by the British colonial government in 1922, would likely lead to further protests.
“If the Carrie Lam administration insists on pushing through such legislation, it could trigger violent objections caused by the extradition bill,” Emily Lau, a former pro-democracy lawmaker, told VICE News. “But some pro-Beijing parties are keen to push it, so the scene is set for another round of serious and violent confrontations.”
There has been widespread condemnation of the shooting from rights groups and lawmakers around the world, but U.S. President Donald Trump ignored the clashes in Hong Kong, and instead congratulated Xi on his 70th-anniversary celebrations.
However, others in the Republican Party strongly condemned Beijing’s actions.
“It is darkly fitting that on the 70th anniversary of the PRC [People’s Republic of China], its agents would be reduced to using force against protesters in Hong Kong who seek to preserve basic personal freedoms,” Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, said in a statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the U.S. and the world are watching “as Hong Kong continues to violate the basic rights of its citizens.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) was even more explicit in his condemnation of Beijing’s actins, saying: “The Butchers of Beijing celebrate 70 years of communist tyranny by shooting a student marching for freedom in Hong Kong. What a sadly appropriate way to mark a dark, lamentable anniversary.”
Cover: A woman holds up her phone showing a image as protesters and supporters gather outside the entrance to the West Kowloon Court in Hong Kong on October 2, 2019, where some 96 protesters arrested and charged with rioting during clashes with police on September 29 were to make an appearance in court. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)