A single gunshot fired at people is one too many

October 03, 2019 17:30
Riot police prepare to confront anti-government protesters in Sham Shui Po on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Just as our Beijing leaders were celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1, anti-government protesters were fighting police in street battles across the territory.

The scariest and most horrific scene of the day was caught on video: a police officer firing a live round at a protester at point-blank range during clashes in Tsuen Wan.

Meanwhile, several police officers were also caught on camera firing warning shots in violent confrontations with protesters in other districts.

The protester who got shot in the chest is an 18-year-old secondary school student from Tsuen Wan. The policeman's bullet pierced his left lung and stopped only three centimeters away from his heart, according to media reports.

The boy, fortunately, has survived and is no longer in critical condition. Although still in hospital, he has been charged with rioting and assaulting police.

The Tsuen Wan incident has raised concerns that the “mode of struggle” between protesters and law enforcement officers will substantially escalate after police fired the first shot at people, and this will only fuel the social turmoil.

Such concerns are definitely not groundless.

As such, we strongly urge both sides to calm down and uphold the utmost value of human life over all other considerations.

We believe it is time for the police and the protesters to call a truce in order to avoid further casualties.

While protesters should never resort to violence as it threatens public security and social order, law enforcement should also avoid using excessive force. Let everyone be reminded that a single gunshot fired at an individual is one too many.

We understand that convincing both protesters and the police to call a truce at this point is a daunting task.

However, we must not ignore the lesson of the Tsuen Wan shooting: the boy would have lost his life had the bullet that penetrated his chest traveled three centimeters deeper and hit his heart.

If our call is drowned in an atmosphere of anger and mayhem, then it's about time Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor rose to the occasion and fulfilled her role as leader of Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 2

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal