In the morning, a police officer seeking self-defense shot a young, apparently unarmed protestor in the abdomen on the spot, clearing a chain of chaotic events as thousands of protesters clashed in downtown financial districts and violent campus confrontations . Hours later, a man who was castigating protesters allegedly involved in vandalizing a train station was flooded with flammable liquid and set on fire. Authorities later identified the victim as a 57-year-old construction worker and said they were investigating the incident as an "attempted murder." He is in critical condition.
The blast prompted Hong Kong CEO Kari Lam to tag protesters. as "people's enemy" ̵
1; words often heard by Beijing for those targeted for imprisonment or worse. Lam, who said about 60 people were injured in the clash on Monday, said protesters were "destroying society." The government, she swore, would not bow to such pressure.
The riots, which continued on Tuesday morning at several Hong Kong universities, mark the worst violence in the city in decades, making it difficult for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to seek to heel Hong Kong without resorting to square-style bloodshed. Tiananan. This confrontation left hundreds dead as the Chinese army beat, shot and crushed people gathered to protest government oppression.
Few fear the reoccurrence of Hong Kong's Tiananmen Square, in part because social media and the ability to send lightning-fast photos makes an observational world a deterrent against such extreme government violence. But Monday's events – filmed in videos that have quickly gone viral – have led many to worry that the Hong Kong government may feel justified, if not relieved, of using increasingly difficult methods to end it. protests, once and for all.
"Senior officials have issued very draconian comments about the promulgation of national security law and the strengthening of overall control," says Willie Vo-Lap Lam, a professor of Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "This, coupled with the death of a student protester last week, is the cause of today's outbreak of disorder."
Student protesters "see no future ahead of themselves" due to government collapse and refusal to compromise, Lam added (no relation to Carrie Lam). "Beijing seems to want to use [the escalating protests] as an excuse to impose more stringent measures."
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gen Shuang declined to comment on the shooting at the protester, referring reporters to other government agencies. The Hong Kong State Council Office did not respond to a request for comment.
"This is a police state in Hong Kong," says Jerry, 26, a financial worker who joined the protests and gave one name for fear of retaliation. "Police are Murderers."
This is not the first time Hong Kong has experienced violence since the start of the protests this summer. A young woman has become a symbol of pro-democracy demonstrations after being shot in the eye with a rubber bullet fired by police. A protestor was shot dead in a confrontation with an officer last month and another fell to death in suspicious circumstances last week. Protesters have ignited fires in subway stations and suspected vandalized businesses are the property of those who are sympathetic to Beijing.
For more than five months, unrest Beijing has been urging Hong Kong leaders to press harder on dissidents. Authorities in Hong Kong have ordered thousands of arrests, draconian new laws, a tear gas drum and detention of MPs for democracy.
However, far from blunting the movement for democracy, increasing violence has prompted protesters to adopt more aggressive tactics. With the deeply divided city going down a riot, there is no sign that Beijing could change its mind or allow the Hong Kong government to propose a political compromise.
The protests began in June when the Hong Kong leader tried to push through now to withdraw his extradition proposal, which would allow suspected criminals to face trial in mainland China. But the movement is growing to revolt against Beijing's encroachment on Hong Kong's autonomy, including demands for full democracy and police accountability.
Riots drove the city into recession. On Monday, many shops were closed, train lines were closed and many workers were unable to reach their offices. Universities cancel classes. Police say a petrol bomb was thrown into a subway car. A police officer driving a motorcycle into a crowd of protesters has been released on leave pending an investigation.
In downtown Hong Kong, as police retreated in vans at one point in the afternoon, crowds on the bridges above chanted: "Fight for freedom! Stay with Hong Kong! "Other spectators were shouting and throwing debris at the vans.
Protesters occupied the main thoroughfare, erected barricades and set fire to high-end hotels. As protesters blocked a road tunnel, they collided with spectators and taxi drivers. Some travelers abandoned their cars and walked around with their suitcases.
In an editorial published on Monday night, the nationalist newspaper Global Times likens Hong Kong protesters to the Islamic State.
"We strictly condemn the mafia for their barbaric setup to those ordinary citizens, those who disagree with them, set on fire. Their horrible behavior has become indistinguishable from that of IS members, "the Chinese-language newspaper says.
At a news conference Monday, police defended the officer's decision earlier in the day to open fire on an apparently unarmed protestor, saying. the demonstrator wanted to take the officer's firearm.
"He was threatened by two people; if he loses his gun, he will be under serious threat. Therefore, he decided to shoot, "Hong Kong Island Commander Kwok Pak-Chung told reporters.
The condition of a man who was hit in the abdomen is not life-threatening, Kwok said.  In the United States, Congress is considering a bill to pave the way for sanctions against people who undermine Hong Kong's autonomy The bill, unanimously approved by the House of Representatives, will require the US government to consider annually whether it should continue to treat Hong Kong as a separate entity from mainland China in response to political developments, but the bill has been stuck in the Senate, where hitherto majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to debate it.
In a statement, the US State Department condemned the violence in Hong Kong .e. called on the government to "upgrade its dialogue" with the public and said the United States was watching the situation "with grave concern." Department spokesman Morgan Ortag also called on Beijing to "fulfill the commitments" made to Hong Kong, including a high-level official. and the degree of autonomy, rule of law, and civil liberties that are "key to maintaining its special status under US law." freedoms and autonomy on the territory for half a century after returning to Chinese rule in 1997. But China is tightening its grip, provoking anger in Hong Kong and uncertainty about its status as a global financial hub.
Amnes ty International labeled the shooting as "another shocking low for Hong Kong police" on Monday and called for an urgent independent review.
Meanwhile, protesters continue to direct their ire at the police.
"They are crazy. This is outrageous, "said the 27-year-old Kong during his lunch break, referring to Monday's shooting." They lost control. "
David Crouchshaw in Hong Kong and Liu Yang in Beijing contributed to this report.