Many people in Hong Kong are questioning what they call the “disproportionate use of lethal force” by police after a 21-year-old student protester was shot and left in a critical condition in hospital during a street battle in Eastern District on Monday.
Some said the shot protester could have been subdued by police with a baton or pepper spray, even though he dashed onto the road and tried to swat the gun away from an officer who was struggling to pin another man to the ground.
To many, the police seem to be deploying tougher tactics while rounding up radical demonstrators as the former British enclave hurtles into its 24th straight week of protests and clashes since June.
There have been rumors among local observers that Beijing, or the city’s government, gave tacit approval and “shoot-to-kill orders” using live ammunition to quell the unrest and that police in the front lines were given a free hand to draw their revolvers and fire live rounds at rioters when they deemed necessary.
Many reports claim that at least three rounds were fired during the rowdy incident on Monday morning. The Hong Kong police said in a statement issued at noon that one assailant charged at an officer who was holding his revolver and at that moment, the officer had to fire a shot to stop the man as he felt his life was threatened, a move in line with international standards. The statement added that the officer shot at the protester’s center mass.
“The use of force was undoubtedly lawful and reasonable,” said the statement.
Hong Kong papers including the Ming Pao Daily and South China Morning Post also cited sources refuting the police’s perceived escalated use of force was a result of an imperative from Beijing.
The papers quoted a law enforcement source as saying that there was “no correlation,” nor did the tougher tactics have anything to do with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s surprise meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week and her visit to Beijing to meet a deputy premier in charge of Beijing’s top taskforce on the city.
“The escalation of force is a response to the more violence used by protesters,” said the source.
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