One man was shot in the chest by police in Hong Kong on Tuesday during widespread and violent protests that coincided with celebrations across China marking 70 years of the Communist state. The incident marked the first time live fire was used by Hong Kong police in their attempts to quell unrest, which is now in its fifth month.
Speaking at a celebration and military parade in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China remains committed to "the strategy of peaceful reunification" and to "one country, two systems," the governing framework established after the Hong Kong handover in 1997.
"No force can ever undermine China's status, or stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward," Xi said at the National Day ceremony in Tiananmen Square, adding that China will "maintain lasting prosperity and stability" in Hong Kong.
A portrait of President Xi Jinping during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing. Photo Credit: Mark Schiefelbein/AP/Shutterstock
Unrest in Hong Kong first broke out in June in opposition to legislation that would have permitted extraditions to mainland China. Residents, moreover, largely took to the streets to voice their objection to China's growing influence over the city's government and Hong Kong at large, which has enjoyed relative autonomy as a special administrative region. The unrest significantly escalated in August after anti-government protesters occupied the city's international airport and held large-scale demonstrations throughout Hong Kong, which has long been a major financial hub for global banking and commerce.
The extradition bill was suspended — and later fully withdrawn — but dramatic protests continued with Hong Kongers calling for democratic voting rights and independent investigations into widespread reports of police abuse.
In Hong Kong on Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully through the city's major thoroughfares to air their grievances and mar National Day celebrations in mainland China. Several violent clashes, however, erupted between protestors and police, which resulted in the shooting of the young activist, who was 18-years-old.
"HK police is celebrating the [People's Republic of China] national day by shooting a young activist," Nathan Law, a leading activist, said on Twitter. "Big prize to communist party? Disgusting. Shame on the police."
Hong Kong police confirmed that the victim was taken to the hospital and, according to local media, remains in critical condition. Throughout the day Tuesday, police condemned "rioters" for starting fires, damaging property, and instigating violence. Authorities also urged all residents to stay indoors and find safe spaces.
Joshua Wong, one of the most prominent pro-democracy activists and politicians, said on Twitter that "on China's National Day ... HK fallen into a de facto police state" and that "paramilitary security forces completely took over this city."
Police clash with anti-government protesters in central Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Vincent Yu/AP/Shutterstock
The unrest in the streets of Hong Kong were in stark contrast to the military procession in Beijing. Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, reported that the parade consisted of 15,000 personnel, 580 pieces of armament, over 160 aircrafts, and new, advanced intercontinental nuclear missiles. Fireworks later lit up the sky as entertainers performed for thousands of festival goers.
"At this very moment, Chinese people of all ethnic groups and all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation at home and abroad take pride in and joyfully give our best wishes to our great motherland," Xi added in his remarks.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's embattled chief executive, was in Beijing to attend the National Day celebration.
By end of day Tuesday, over 180 people were arrested and 25 police officers were injured, the South China Morning Post reported citing police chief Stephen Lo. It has been “one of Hong Kong’s most violent and chaotic days," Lo said.