This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Schoolchildren in Hong Kong boycotted class on Wednesday in protest at the shooting of a teenage protester — who is recovering from emergency surgery in intensive care — by police during anti-China protests on China’s National Day on Oct. 1.
More than 100 students from the secondary school Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College protested there on Wednesday morning at the shooting of one of its students, who was identified by his surname Tsang, during clashes with riot police in his home district.
Shouting: “Go Ho Chuen Yiu! Reclaim Hong Kong! Revolution in our time!” the students hit out at the recent escalation in police violence, which has also drawn widespread criticism from rights organizations.
A classmate of Tsang’s surnamed Tam said he is a kind person who was always sincere in his dealings with others, and hit out at the police officer for shooting him at close range.
“This violence is very serious and unprecedented,” she said. “Now they have shot a person with live ammunition, I feel that this sets a precedent, and we can’t rule out further escalation in police actions.”
“But the police use of force was already disproportionate; they have been hammering us from the start, so they could do even more unacceptable things and directly endanger our lives,” she said.
A local resident who gave only a nickname Meggie said police are now blindly abusing their power, and are out of control.
“There is too much power wielded by police, and people get blinded by that, just as they do with money,” she said. “They if they point a gun at protesters, they have to move, and if not, they will shoot them.”
Anonymous protesters held a press conference outside the school, describing Tsang’s shooting, and saying that Hong Kong was now “at war.”
“Judging from the footage shot by different media, the special squad officer was fully armed, and wouldn’t have been much harmed by any resistance put up by the fighters,” a spokesman said.
“What’s more, the special squad officer took the initiative to rush forward when [protesters] were retreating, and he also took the initiative to shoot at very close range,” he said.
“This violates not just the principle of self-defense, but also indicated the intention to murder the protester.”
Pro-Beijing camp defends shooting
But former Hong Kong leader and adviser to the ruling Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing, Leung Chun-ying, said Tsang was a rioter who got what was coming to him, and called on his school to consider expelling him.
His views were echoed by many pro-Beijing members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo).
After discussions with alumni, the school authorities said they wouldn’t revoke Tsang’s diploma nor expel him, but they stopped short of condemning the shooting.
“We are now mainly engaged in helping students deal with their emotions,” principal Tse Yun-ming told reporters. “This school will definitely protect its students.”
Police reiterated their defense of the shooting on Wednesday, saying that it was “legal and reasonable.”
But pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said the conduct of the police as seen on widely published video footage was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“After they hurt him, the police didn’t even assess his injury; they just left him bleeding on the ground,” Lam said. “And after leaving without first aid for three minutes on the ground, [they didn’t] even check to see if he was dead.”
“This is completely unacceptable.”
‘Restraint and a de-escalation’
U.K. foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the use of live ammunition was “disproportionate” to the threat faced by the officers.
“Whilst there is no excuse for violence, the use of live ammunition is disproportionate, and only risks inflaming the situation,” Raab said in a statement.
“We need to see restraint and a de-escalation from both protesters and the Hong Kong authorities,” he added, echoing remarks from E.U. spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.
“While initial positive steps to engage members of the public and various sectors of society in dialogue have been taken, further efforts are needed to restore trust,” Kocijancic said. “More than three months since the protests began, the right to assembly and the right to protest peacefully must continue to be upheld.”
London-based rights group Amnesty International has repeatedly called for an independent and effective investigation into police use of force since protests escalated in early June, including alleged torture and other ill-treatment in detention.
“Failure to address previous excessive use of force contributed to the current escalation in violence,” the group said, citing United Nations guidelines as saying that firearms may only be used to protect against an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.
In Washington, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hit out at the use of violence in a statement marking the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
“On the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), we should pause to recognize the many millions of lives lost under Chinese communist rule,” McConnell said.
“I especially condemn the continued use of violence against democratic activists in Hong Kong,” he said. “It is darkly fitting that on the 70th anniversary of the PRC, its agents would be reduced to using force against protesters in Hong Kong who seek to preserve basic personal freedoms. The [Chinese Communist Party] has always squashed dissent with force.”