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Naked Police Violence in Hong Kong as Beijing Celebrates National Day

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October 1, 2019

As Beijing mounted a tightly choreographed spectacle of tanks, bombers, and missiles, with a march of 15,000 soldiers, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, a police officer in Hong Kong shot a teenage demonstrator in the chest at close range. While most residents in Beijing were forbidden to watch the military parade in person, the people of Hong Kong defied a police ban to come out in large numbers—including the young and the old—to continue their months-long protest against Beijing’s encroachment on their freedoms. The shooting, in Tsuen Wan, marked a further escalation in police violence against protestors that has steadily intensified since June, fueling and exacerbating public anger.

The incident occurred a little after 4:00 p.m., October 1, Hong Kong time. While the Hong Kong Police Senior Superintendent claimed that the officer fired “to save his own life and that of his colleagues’,” video footage shows something different: A group of police officers rush toward a number of protesters carrying umbrellas and rods; one of the protesters swipes with his rod at the hand of a policeman with a drawn gun; the policeman fires at the chest of the protester just inches away, knocking him on the ground. The victim is identified as 18-year-old Chi-kin Tsang (transliteration of the phonetic rendering, 曾志健), a high school student. The police stated that the victim was hit in the shoulder, but footage and photos show wounds in his upper left chest. He is reported to be in critical condition after undergoing surgery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

“The shooting exposes the true face of a totalitarian regime, and is just the latest tragic emblem of 70 years of human rights disasters in China under the rule of the Communist Party of China,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “What we are witnessing in Hong Kong is the emergence of a police state. The signs are clear: consistent use of excessive police force rather than de-escalation of violence, and police attacking not only protesters but also passersby, journalists, and first aiders.”

Today’s shooting capped the violent police response to a weekend of protests. On Saturday, September 28, as tens of thousands of protestors rallied in Tamar Park in Admiralty, near the Hong Kong Government complex, to mark the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Movement, police fired water cannons, tear gas, and pepper spray against protesters who they accused of throwing petrol bombs. On Sunday, September 29, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors in the “global anti-totalitarianism” march from Causeway Bay to Admiralty. Today, Tuesday, October 1, as thousands protested in more than a dozen neighborhoods—not many could travel as more than half of the 91 metro stations in the city were shut down—police fired tear gas at demonstrators in at least nine areas, including Wong Tai Sin, Tsuen Wan, and Sha Tin.

Over the past months, multiple incidents of police infiltrating protesters have been captured in footage and photos. In a video posted on Twitter on October 1, a policeman is shown screaming apparently at protesters (off screen): “I need to throw petrol bombs at you—rioters;” he then turned his head and screamed to someone else in another direction (also off screen), seemingly giving instructions: “Throw petrol bombs!”

“Hong Kong’s problem is decidedly not an internal affair of China, as mainland authorities claim,” Hom said. “It is a contest between a people struggling to defend their basic freedoms and a regime reneging on the promises it made in an international treaty—the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

Hom added, “In persisting in their five demands—withdrawal of the extradition bill that triggered the protests, establishment of a commission of inquiry into police violence, removal of the ‘rioters’ label of protesters, release of the arrested protesters, and universal suffrage—the Hong Kong people have shown their courage and resolve in defending their freedoms. Now is the moment for the international community to show its principled, concrete support for the people of Hong Kong: to press for, immediately, investigation of and accountability for every single act of police violence against demonstrators that the authorities have allowed to happen since June.”

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