Officer who shot rioter 'felt his life threatened'
Updated: 2019-11-12 07:47
A traffic police officer, who shot and wounded a black-clad rioter during a scuffle on eastern Hong Kong Island on Monday morning, had acted in "a split second" to protect his life, as well as those of others, when the protester tried to snatch his gun, according to Hong Kong police.
At a news conference on Monday afternoon, the police reiterated that the force has strict guidelines regarding the use of firearms, and all officers are required to justify their enforcement actions.
The man, who was shot in the abdomen, is reported to be 21-year-old student, and was in a critical, but not life-threatening, condition following surgery in Eastern Hospital, Regional Commander of Hong Kong Island Kwok Pak-chung said.
The incident occurred in Sai Wan Ho shortly after 7 am as rioters went on an extensive rampage across Hong Kong. A traffic police officer at the scene tried to disperse a mob setting up barricades to block the street near Sai Wan Ho MTR Station, but found himself surrounded by about six rioters, one of whom was armed with an object that looked like an iron bar, according to Kwok.
He said the officer drew his revolver as a warning and tried to subdue a masked man in a white shirt. Ignoring the officer's warning, another masked man attempted to snatch the officer's gun, forcing the officer to open fire.
The officer believed it was very likely his revolver would be snatched, and the consequences could be disastrous for him and others, Kwok said.
He confirmed that the officer fired three shots, one of which hit a rioter in the abdomen. The other two shots were intended as warnings when the mob tried to save a fellow rioter who was being subdued.
Eight people were arrested in Sai Wan Ho, including the man who was shot and wounded, Kwok said, adding that the matter is being thoroughly investigated by the police.
Noting that the personal information of the officer who opened fire has been leaked on the internet, and his family members have been threatened with harm, Senior Superintendent (Media Liaison and Communication) of the Police Public Relations Branch Kong Wing-cheung said it would be "naive" to assume that the threats will intimidate the police from rigorously enforcing the law.
The police also dismissed online rumors in a statement that frontline officers have been ordered to use their firearms recklessly in Monday's operations.
"Police clarifies that this allegation is totally false and malicious," the police said in the statement.
Referring to another incident on Monday, in which online video showed a traffic police officer plowing his motorcycle into a crowd of black-clad protesters at Kwai Fong in the southwestern New Territories, Kwok said the police attach great importance to the case and is seriously investigating.
He said the officer involved has been suspended from all frontline duties and asked to take immediate leave.
According to Chief Superintendent of Police Public Relations Branch Tse Chun-chung, the police had arrested 266 people over the past weekend - 212 men and 54 women aged between 11 and 74. They have been charged with offenses including taking part in an unlawful assembly, criminal damage, attacking a police officer and attempted murder.
A total of 18 police officers were injured in the past week when making arrests.
Tse said the police strongly condemned all acts of violence that have "ruined Hong Kong beyond recognition". He reiterated that all offenders will be brought to justice, and urged the public to stay calm and rational.
(HK Edition 11/12/2019 page4)