Hong Kong police escalated the use of violence against protesters this weekend, the tenth since protests against Communist Party influence in the city began, flooding closed-off areas with tear gas and, on one occasion, allegedly shooting a protester in the eye.
The harrowing image of the young woman, yet to be identified, bleeding profusely from her eye socket inspired protesters Monday to demand Hong Kong police “give us the eye back.”
In another video, journalists caught police beating a complying protester and squeezing him into a pool of his own blood as the protester repeatedly told officers he was complying with his arrest and in significant pain.
Police also used tear gas liberally in contained spaces – most notably, in an enclosed Mass Transit Rail (MTR) station – and fired pellets and bean bags at close range, injuring protesters. Many online questioned the use of tear gas, meant to disperse crowds, in a space where the protesters were trapped and could not physically disperse.
Protesters have launched a White House petition to brand the Hong Kong police force a terrorist organization which, as of Monday morning, has enough signatures for an official U.S. government response.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets on Saturday and Sunday throughout the city, the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported, despite police limiting the scope of protests, banning marching in many instances, and keeping protesters away from government buildings and police stations. While the protest movement has been overwhelmingly peaceful, protesters have attacked government buildings to prevent officials from conducting business that would limit their civil liberties. Most prominently, protesters destroyed the headquarters of the Legislative Council (LegCo) – only targeting the facilities needed to pass laws – to keep legislators from passing a law that would allow China to extradite anyone present in the city for violating communist laws.
A full withdrawal of the extradition law – which makes Communist Party laws viable on Hong Kong soil and, thus, violates the “One Country, Two Systems” policy that governs the city – is the primary demand of the protest movement. Lawmakers have tabled the bill, which allows them to revive it at any time, but have refused to withdraw it.
Protesters began surrounding a police station in the neighborhood of Tsim Sha Tsui late Sunday, prompting police to flood the area with tear gas and use bean bags, pellets, and other projectiles against the protesters. Video from the area circulating online showed a young woman with a bleeding eye being tended to by paramedics. She was reportedly shot by a bean bag round:
Disturbing image. A woman got hit in her eye by projectile fired from the #TsimShaTsui police station. Reports said it was a bean bag round that went through her goggles. Online sources said her eyeball has burst & she might be permanently blind in one eye. #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/fuY2Ebvo53
— Frances Sit (@frances_sit) August 11, 2019
Citing a source at the hospital tending to the protester, who remains unidentified, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday that the impact had “ruptured” the woman’s eyeball, but it was not yet a certainty that she would lose it. The unnamed source, a doctor, said the woman had endured six hours of surgery on her face to repair damage to her nose in addition to emergency measures to save her eye.
Police protocol bans firing bean bag rounds at protesters’ faces, allowing their use only on bodies in cases of emergency.
Hong Kong policy denied that officers fired the shot that injured the woman, whose status as a protester has not been confirmed.
“There is no evidence showing that the cause of this incident was related to the police, Tang Ping-keung, deputy commissioner of Hong Kong police, said at a Monday conference,” the Communist Party propaganda outlet Global Times claimed on Monday. An unidentified source the Global Times claimed to be a police officer added it was “technically impossible” for police to shoot the woman to cause such an injury, though he did not explain why.
Protesters taking to the streets on Monday demanded symbolically that police “give back the eye.” Some wore eye patches in solidarity:
— Joanne Wong (@JOceanW) August 12, 2019
Journalists reported personally witnessing police officers shooting pepper balls and other anti-riot projectiles at protesters at close range, threatening serious injury. The use of tear gas in enclosed spaces also elicited horrified reactions as videos from prominent members of the protest movement began circulating online. Hong Kong police have neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the videos:
Another video from the same metro station (Tai Koo). The riot police is shooting at head level and barely 3 feet away. Huge risk of causing death, and appallingly excessive use of force. #HongKong #HongKongProtests #antiELAB pic.twitter.com/Ufa73deFG9
— Wilson Leung 梁允信 (@WilsonLeungWS) August 11, 2019
The Hong Kong Free Press published a shocking video Sunday showing more violence against protesters, this time against a young man pinned to the ground in a pool of his own blood by a police officer dressed in a black shirt and a construction hard hat – the common uniform of protesters. The man in the video does not appear to resist arrest and repeatedly says, “I understand; don’t press me”:
A group of plainclothes officers, disguised as protesters, launched a surprise operation to arrest protesters outside SOGO department store in Causeway Bay. At least a dozen were arrested. The officers refused to answer reporters' questions on their identity.#HongKong #antiELAB pic.twitter.com/P3WzYCJdu7
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) August 11, 2019
Police denied that undercover officers had dressed as protesters to attack from within. The South China Morning Post found “force insiders” willing to admit to the tactic, however, calling it the “first move of its kind” during the current wave of protests. A senior police official did admit to a “decoy” operation but did not confirm that officers were dressed as protesters and insisted the operation only targeted “violent rioters.”
Hong Kong’s government, a puppet arm of the Communist Party of China, has branded all the peaceful protests “riots.” Among the protesters’ five demands is an official government statement that at least one of those protests – the June 12 mass march for democracy – was not a “riot”:
— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 (@nathanlawkc) August 11, 2019
This weekend marked the first since the return of Alan Lau, a retired police deputy commissioner widely acknowledged as the man who successfully repressed the 2014 pro-democracy protests in the city. The Morning Post reported that, as of Monday afternoon, 54 people were hospitalized. The youngest is eight years old.
Pro-democracy movement leaders began circulating a petition this weekend to ask the American government to brand the Hong Kong police force a terrorist organization, comparing their tactics to those of Nazi Germany. The petition currently has 130,393 signatures, over 30,000 more than necessary for a response.
Hong Kong’s government continues to insist that the protesters are violent “extremists” seeking a full separation from the repressive communist regime governing China.
“Some radical elements have changed the nature of the protests: some defaced the national emblem, and others took down a national flag and threw it into the sea. They said they want to foment revolution, to ‘liberate’ Hong Kong,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam alleged last week.
Protests continued into Monday, shutting down Hong Kong’s airport.