Violent clashes between protesters and police roiled Hong Kong Monday amidst a hardening government response to the months-long demonstrations. An unarmed protester was shot by police, sparking outrage among demonstrators, who had called for a citywide strike Monday in response to a crackdown by the Chinese territory’s government.
The shooting, the third by police of a protester since the demonstrations began, was captured on camera in a surreal scene where the officer drew a handgun and fired several times on a 21-year-old man as commuters looked on. A local resident told Reuters the shooting took place as protesters were building a roadblock when police arrived and began shooting. “They didn’t fight and the police ran and directly shot,” the resident said. “There were three sounds, like ‘pam, pam, pam.’ ” Elsewhere in the city, a middle-aged man was doused with gasoline and set on fire after espousing pro-China beliefs in an argument with protesters. That attack was also caught on video.
“Tensions had been building for days, following the death of a student last week who fell from a parking garage amid demonstrations. The protesters see him as a martyr, and have depicted his death as another sign of excessive police violence,” the New York Times reports. “Protesters threw Molotov cocktails and glass bottles at police lines, while officers responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.” A widely distributed video also appeared to show police intentionally trying to run over protesters with a motorcycle.
The day marked a significant escalation in violence for the pro-democracy protests that began in June as a response to an extradition bill that would allow Beijing to extradite Hong Kong citizens and try them on the mainland. “Throughout more than five months of unrest, Beijing has exhorted Hong Kong’s leaders to clamp down harder on the dissenters,” the Washington Post reports. “Hong Kong authorities have obliged with thousands of arrests, draconian new laws, a barrage of tear gas and the detention of pro-democracy lawmakers. … Yet far from blunting the democracy movement, the intensifying crackdown has prompted protesters to adopt more aggressive tactics.”