June 16, 2021

Hong Kong protests: was police officer justified in opening fire on protester with live round?

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Hong Kong’s police force has faced massive backlash over how they have handled the protests, with the latest being a shooting incident. Photo: Nora Tam

By Jeffie Lam, Sum Lok-kel, Kanis Leung From South China Morning Post

  • Ex-member of police watchdog defends riot officer who discharged revolver at teenage demonstrator during National Day violence
  • Civil rights campaigners suggest review of police procedures as they challenge officer’s decision to open fire

Should the police officer who shot a young protester point blank in the chest with his service revolver have aimed for his limbs instead, or fired a warning shot in the air first?

Many Hongkongers are asking the question amid a chorus of condemnation against the city’s embattled police force after the officer, under attack by radical protesters on October 1, shot 18-year-old secondary school student Tsang Chi-kin during the clash in Tsuen Wan.

Civil rights groups, doctors and politicians are demanding answers and accountability, rejecting the police chief’s defence that it was a “reasonable and lawful” use of lethal force under extreme circumstances, as the officer and his colleagues were being attacked by protesters armed with hammers, rods and petrol bombs.

Students and alumni from Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College – where Tsang studies – called it “attempted murder” by police, as they questioned the justification.

Civil Rights Observer member Icarus Wong Ho-yin urged police to further explain why the officer did not use rubber bullets or beanbag rounds instead to stop the assault.

Icarus Wong from Civil Rights Observer. Photo: Alvin Lum

Icarus Wong from Civil Rights Observer. Photo: Alvin LumShare:Don’t Miss Critical Events In Hong KongGet our newsletter sent Monday to FridaySIGN UPBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

Video footage of the incident showed a group of protesters chasing an isolated police officer, pinning him to the ground and beating him.

The footage showed a policeman rushing forward to rescue his colleague with his service revolver pointed at the protesters, and opening fire when Tsang swung at his gun-holding arm with a plastic stick.

The policeman, who was also holding a rifle presumably loaded with non-lethal rounds in his left hand, was already pointing the service revolver at the protesters as he approached the crowd.

“When there is an officer who directly skipped the step of using rubber bullet or beanbag rounds, it seems that the use of force should be reviewed comprehensively to see whether excessive force was deployed or if the move was not aligned with police guidelines,” Wong said.

He also held police commanders responsible in ensuring officers were not isolated in such confrontations in the first place.

The Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association also refuted the police force’s claim that the officer was in life-threatening danger, as he was “only attacked in the arm with a stick”.

But Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung hit back strongly at such criticism, questioning whether the force’s detractors were qualified to comment as they had not been trained in the use of firearms.

“They are letting their emotions override logic,” Tse said, complaining that they were leaving out the fact that another officer was under fierce attack at the time, and urging people to stop “smearing” the force.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Tang Ping-keung said their guidelines stipulated that officers should aim for the torso. “It is easy to hit and can immediately stop dangerous acts,” he said.

Edwin Cheng Shing-lung, a former member of the Independent Police Complaints Council, also defended the shooting as legally justified.

“Some people also questioned why there was a rifle in his left hand and he did not use it,” he said on a radio programme. “But within such a short time, how could the officer who initially was rushing there with … a revolver put it back in the holster and take out the rifle or other weapons?”

Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung addressed the same question earlier, saying: “The officer did not decide the distance, it was the assailant who was standing so near to him, so the officer had no other choice but to use the weapon in his hand.”

Opposition lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party said police officers had left the wounded youth on the ground for several minutes as they pinned down another black-clad protester.

“This is unacceptable, life comes first,” he said.

But superintendent Tse countered that officers on the scene were still under attack after the shooting, with protesters throwing bricks and a petrol bomb at them.

“Before giving first aid, the priority is to make sure the environment is safe,” Tse said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung said he would launch a private prosecution against the officer who fired the shot.

Additional reporting by Chan Ho-him

For more on this story and video go to; https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3031325/hong-kong-protests-was-police-officer-justified-opening?utm_medium=email&utm_source=mailchimp&utm_campaign=enlz-gme_hk_protests&utm_content=20191007&MCUID=8d9bd0120f&MCCampaignID=29510528a4&MCAccountID=7b1e9e7f8075914aba9cff17f&tc=10

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