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First Protestor Shot in Hong Kong Amid China National Day Violence

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  • Demonstrators in Hong Kong defied a protest ban and took to the streets the same day China held a massive military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Communist rule.
  • During the protests, a Hong Kong police officer shot an 18-year-old protestor point-blank. It was the first time that an officer has fired a live round at an activist since the demonstrations started.
  • Experts and the media have described the day’s events as some of the most violent since the movement started in June.

Protestor Shot

A Hong Kong police officer shot a teenage protestor after violence broke out during demonstrations against China’s National Day on Tuesday, marking the first time an officer has fired live ammunition at a pro-democracy activist since protests began in June.

The protests in Hong Kong, which originally started as peaceful marches against a proposed extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong to extradite people accused of certain crimes to mainland China, have become increasingly violent.

However, many experts and media outlets have asserted that the violence seen on Tuesday represents a marked escalation.

In a video of the event, the protestor who was shot can be seen in a group of other people in black chasing after a police officer and tackling him to the ground before kicking him and beating him with what looks to be metal pipes.

The protester who was shot is then seen approaching another police officer standing nearby with a handgun drawn. The protestor swings the officer with a pipe and the officer fires at the man at point-blank range, about three feet away.

In a press conference, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Police Force defended the officer’s action. 

“The police officers’ lives were under serious threat; to save his own life and his colleagues’ lives, he fired a live shot,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that the protester, an 18-year-old boy, had been shot in the left shoulder and was conscious as he was taken to the hospital.

The spokesperson added that the protester, an 18-year-old boy, had been shot in the left shoulder and was conscious as he was taken to the hospital.

However, most local and international media outlets have been reporting that the boy was shot in the chest, not the shoulder.

Local outlets have also reported that the boy is a student who attends a local high school in Hong Kong.

It is unclear what condition he is in, though there have been some reports that he is one of the two men reportedly in critical condition in a local hospital following the day’s events.

In a separate press conference later, Hong Kong’s police chief condemned the protestors and reiterated that the officer acted in self-defense.

He also said that the protester who was shot had been arrested, and authorities were deciding if they were going to bring him up on charges of assaulting a police officer.

Protests on China’s National Day

Tuesday’s protests in Hong Kong came as China celebrated the 70th anniversary of Communist rule in China, also known as China’s National Day.

Chinese officials celebrated with a massive military parade in Beijing, as is customary. Speaking before the parade in front of the Tiananmen Square, Chinese President Xi appeared to deliver a message to Hong Kong. 

“No force can shake the status of our great motherland, no force can obstruct the advance of the Chinese people and Chinese nation,” he said, adding that China would “maintain the lasting prosperity and stability” of Hong Kong without specifically mentioning the protests

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, officials had long anticipated that the pro-democracy protestors would hold massive demonstrations on National Day in an attempt to upstage mainland China and send them a message, or at the very least detract from their National Day parade.

With police warning of violence and potential terrorism ahead of National Day, authorities announced a ban on protests and shut down key subway stations and commercial buildings.

However, the ban did not stop the estimated hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers who defied authorities and showed up to hold demonstrations. The protests started out largely peacefully, with only a few minor scuffles reported.

Protesters could be seen holding flags and banners and sprinkling fake money — which is a traditional Chinese funeral custom— to mockingly “mourn” National Day.  Some banners and protestors also referred to the day as a “national day of grief.”

While some of the demonstrations remained peaceful, things started to escalate in other parts of the city later in the day. According to reports, right before sundown, police used large amounts of tear gas as well as water cannons and physical force to clear protestors.

According to reports, right before sundown, police used large amounts of tear gas as well as water cannons and physical force to clear protestors.

Some of the protestors were reportedly marching peacefully, but others threw bricks and petrol bombs at the police. The Hong Kong Police Force also said on Twitter that “rioters” in one district had injured multiple officers and reporters with a “corrosive fluid.” 

The Hong Kong Police Force also said on Twitter that “rioters” in one district had injured multiple officers and reporters with a “corrosive fluid.” 

Protestors additionally vandalized shop fronts, restaurants, and government buildings across the city, mostly seeming to target places and that were perceived to be pro-Beijing

Tuesday’s event’s have been described as one of the most significant landmarks in the protests so far, with many positing that this is a turning point that will likely change the nature of the protests moving forward.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The New York Times) (The Guardian)

International

China Cautiously Crawls Out of Zero COVID Policy

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Estimates put the number of people who will die if China fully reopens between 1.3 and 2 million, but higher vaccination rates could limit the death toll.


People Go Back to Bars

The Chinese government has begun to ease some of its notoriously strict pandemic lockdown measures, signaling that the end of the “zero-COVID” policy may be on the horizon.

On Monday, commuters in Beijing and at least 16 other cities were allowed to board buses and subways without a virus test in the previous 48 hours for the first time in months.

In Shanghai, visitors to most sites will require a negative test within the last week, rather than the last two days, though schools, hospitals, and bars will require one within the past 48 hours.

Dining in restaurants in some parts of Beijing is still prohibited, but bars and restaurants in many areas of the country are reopening.

In Urumqi, where anti-lockdown protests erupted late last month after an apartment fire killed 10 people, authorities said in a statement Monday that malls, markets, and other venues will reopen.

Zhengzhou, the central city home to the world’s largest iPhone plant which was last month rocked by violent unrest, will no longer require COVID test results for public transport, taxis, and visits to “public areas”, authorities said in a Sunday statement.

Beijing authorities had required registration to purchase fever, cough, and soar throat medicine, which they believed people were using to hide their coronavirus infections, but that mandate has been lifted. Certain districts in the capital also announced that some residents may self-isolate inside their homes rather than being forced to quarantine in a centralized facility.

Is China Ready to Reopen?

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees COVID efforts, said last week that the country’s health system had withstood the test of the virus and that the omicron subvariant is less deadly than previous strains.

But there has not been a significant drop in cases recently to prompt the easing of restrictions. On Monday, the government reported 30,014 new cases, down from last week’s peak of over 40,000 but still near record highs for China.

Some observers speculate that the government’s move was related to the recent protests, in which thousands of people poured onto the streets of several major cities to demand freedom and an end to the zero-COVID policy. Authorities cracked down on demonstrators, and any mention of the protests was rigorously censored on Chinese social media.

There was no sign of any significant unrest this weekend.

Although many people are excited to enjoy less restricted lives and restart a shuddered economy, others are concerned about the public health consequences reopening society could incur. Estimates put the number of people who will die from the coronavirus if China fully reopens between 1.3 and 2 million, but higher vaccination rates could limit the death toll.

Last week, the government launched a campaign to vaccinate the elderly population.

Only about 40% of people over the age of 80 have gotten their booster shot, according to official statistics.

Health experts and economists say vaccination rates and ICU preparedness won’t be sufficient to fully end the zero-COVID policy until mid-2023 or 2024.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Associated Press) (Reuters)

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India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People

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The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.


Bridge Collapses

After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people. 

According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125. 

During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.

“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.

Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government. 

Shifting Blame

In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.

“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.

The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.

“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.

Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters. 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (VICE) (CNN)

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Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals

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Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.


Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies

Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.

Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.

The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.

For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.

An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”

Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.

As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.

Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.

The Arc of History Bends Toward China

Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.

Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.

Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.

At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.

Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.

Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.

Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.

Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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