As It Happens

Hong Kong student describes scene after first shooting of protester by police

Student journalist Ken Lui was nearby when a pro-democracy protester was shot by a police officer on Tuesday. He describes the frantic scene to As It Happens host Carol Off.

'I heard a very loud noise, and I thought, 'That was a real pistol shooting,' said Ken Lui

A pro-democracy protester walks in front of a burning barricade during clashes with police in Wan Chai on Tuesday, Oct. 1 in Hong Kong. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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University student Ken Lui was in the middle of a fracas between pro-democracy protesters and police officers in riot gear when a protester was shot with live ammunition, for the first time since the wave of demonstrations began in June.

Lui described the atmosphere as "intense," with police shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters taking part in demonstrations in the Tsuen Wan district of northern Hong Kong.

At one point, he said, a group of police officers were falling back from their position, after being overwhelmed by a surge of demonstrators.

"And then I heard a very loud noise, and I thought, 'That was a real pistol shooting,'" he told As it Happens host Carol Off.

He described seeing police continue to disperse the protesters, while one officer went to attend to the man who was shot.

"One police officer, he was quite frightened, and he told the protesters that they have already called the ambulance, and [said,] 'Please don't attack us, we will protect the injured boy properly.'"

Hong Kong student Ken Lui was on the scene when police shot a protester on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (Submitted by Ken Lui)

Video released by Campus TV and the City University Student Union appears to show one police officer in riot gear firing a pistol at point-blank range into a protester's chest area. CBC has not independently verified the video.

The video then appears to show another demonstrator rush in to try to drag away the injured protester, before being tackled by an officer as a gasoline bomb lands in the middle of the group of officers and explodes.

Video shows Hong Kong protester being shot by police

4 years ago
Duration 0:22
Video from Campus TV and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students' Union shows a protester being shot by police during a clash. The video was slowed down by the source.

A police spokesperson described the protesters as "rioters" and said the officer who fired acted in self-defence — a claim that Lui called "groundless."

"As we can know, they have different choices of weapons in that occasion, such as they can simply use the pepper spray or the baton to disperse the protesters … I don't see any grounds for using a real pistol to shoot the protesters. Because this may cause death," he said.

"This is obviously an excessive use of force."

Clashes intensify on National Day

While officers have previously fired warning shots in the air on multiple occasions during months of protests in Hong Kong, this was the first time a protester is reported to have been shot with live ammunition. 

"I think the Hong Kongers are very angry at this moment," Lui said of the shooting.

He added that the shooting may have brought up memories for Hong Kong residents old enough to remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Police are warning of the potential for protesters to engage in violence 'one step closer to terrorism' during this week's National Day events, an assertion ridiculed by activists as propaganda meant to scare people from taking to the streets. (Vincent Thian/The Associated Press)

Tuesday marked National Day in China, commemorating the ruling Community Party's 70th year in power.

Lui suggested that the occasion may have helped energize the protesters.

"Hong Kongers are ready for a big battle and they think that on this special occasion, the anniversary of the establishment of the PRC [People's Republic of China], it's kind of a great occasion to have a big fight with the regime," he said.

"They're thinking that on this special occasion, the world is watching us, and we can show the world that  ... Hong Kongers will not surrender to the CCP."

Hong Kong's one-country, two-systems framework was implemented when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The protests began in early June over a now-shelved extradition bill that activists say was an example of how their rights have been eroded.

Written by Jonathan Ore with files from The Associated Press. Produced by Morgan Passi.