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Hong Kong police defend use of live fire during protests, say officers’ lives were in danger

Hong Kong police defend use of live fire during protests, say officers’ lives were in danger
The actions of an officer who shot live rounds at a teenage protester were “lawful and reasonable,” the Hong Kong deputy police commissioner said, adding that there was a threat to the lives of officers.

Tuesday saw one of the most violent clashes since the Hong Kong protests erupted in mid-June over the extradition bill with mainland China. It was also the first time that the law enforcers employed live fire against the rioting crowds, often equipped with Molotov cocktails and other self-made arms. An 18-year-old student was shot in the chest from close range and now remains in hospital in a stable condition. 

The officer, who pulled the trigger, did so “in line with our guidelines and international standards,” Deputy Police Commissioner Ping-keung Tang insisted during a press-conference.

He said that at one moment the policemen were outnumbered by a group of rioters, armed with spanners, hammers, iron bars and sharpened pods. They also tossed bricks and stones at the law enforcers.

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“Our officers’ lives were under great threat so they put out the service revolver as a precautionary measure and as a warning,” Tang pointed out. But one rioter didn’t heed that warning and charged at the officer, who “fired a shot at the assailant and subdued him.” The policeman, who used his gun, remains on duty because he protected himself and his colleagues, he added.

The distance between our officers and an assailant is never a concern. It's exactly because the assailant was so close to our officer that the life threat is really imminent. The use of forces is undoubtedly lawful and reasonable.

Thirty officers were injured during the latest clashes, with five of them remaining in hospital, including a troop, who “suffered third-degree burns as rioters used corrosive fluid as a weapon,” according to the deputy commissioner.

The police arrested 269 people on Tuesday when China celebrated 70 years of the Communist Party’s rule. It was more than any previous days of the protests. The ages of those detained varied from 12 to 71.

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The months-long mass protests were initially triggered by a now-dropped extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be moved to mainland China. Although Hong Kong authorities formally withdraw it, protesters have refused to back down until several of their other demands are fulfilled, like an amnesty over the riots and election reform.  US and some European countries voiced support for what they call "pro-democracy protests." Beijing, meanwhile, has strongly condemned the rioting and warned foreign governments against inciting violence in Hong Kong.

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