Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Tuesday as China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China, clashing with police, who fired water cannons, tear gas, and in at least one incident, live rounds.
Video taken by the Associated Press shows at least one pro-democracy protester wearing a helmet and wielding a baton, being shot by Hong Kong police. Some areas of the city have reportedly become a battleground between protesters and police as security forces fired water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the massive crowds, while protesters responded with bricks and Molotov cocktails as they hid behind umbrellas. Today's protest and shooting of a protester by a live round marks an escalation in the demonstrations that have spanned the last four months.
The protesters, all dressed in black, are calling for Communist Party to return the power to the people.
NBC News confirmed with Hong Kong police they had fired live ammunition during the protests and that an 18-year-old man had been shot in the shoulder and taken to a local hospital.
"A large group of rioters attacked police officers," Police Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan said. "As an officer felt his life was under serious threat, he fired a round at the assailant to save his own life and his colleagues’ lives."
"To save his own life and his colleagues’ lives, he fired a live shot at the assailant," she said in a video posted to Facebook. "It is really heartbreaking."
Police also posted photos of officers who had been injured, with some saying they'd been hit by a "corrosive fluid" as the protesters turned violent.
Former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan told the South China Morning Post that the 'National Day' is a day of mourning for protesters in Hong Kong.
"We are mourning those who sacrificed for democracy in China," Cheuk-yan said. "It’s 70 years of suppression. We mourn that, and we also condemn the fact that the Hong Kong government together with Chinese government denied the people of Hong Kong the right to democracy."
Protesters have been marching in Hong Kong for nearly 17 weeks straight now, accusing mainland China of encroaching on their rights ever since Britain handed over control of the city back to China in 1997. A recent bill, known as the Fugitive Offenders bill proposed by the Hong Kong government would have allowed local authorities to detain citizens in Hong Kong and turn them over to Chinese authorities. Protesters began marching after becoming concerned the bill would subject them to Chinese jurisdiction, undermining the autonomy of the region and their civil liberties.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to congratulate President Xi Jingping
"Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
Photo: Getty Images