A 21-year-old student shot by police has been arrested for unlawful assembly, as a fresh round of clashes broke out in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The student, named as Mr Chow by police, remains in a serious condition in hospital.
Another activist, Mr Woo, 19, who was in the vicinity when the shooting occurred, has also been arrested for unlawful assembly, attempted robbery for allegedly trying to snatch an officer’s gun, and possession of offensive weapons, police confirmed.
There were stand-offs on Tuesday in several neighbourhoods throughout the financial hub, including in the central business district around lunchtime, where some office workers joined in demonstrations.
Activists again disrupted public transport, starting around 7am, purposefully targeting the city’s bustling morning commute hours by holding subway car doors open or hurling objects onto the tracks, including petrol bombs.
At one station, a train halted in a tunnel where debris was strewn across the rails, forcing hundreds of passengers to walk along the tracks to the platform.
Tensions have soared this week after a 22-year-old student died from a fall in unclear and disputed circumstances while police cleared protesters nearby.
Protests are now in their sixth month, as activists call for democratic election reforms and an end to Beijing’s meddling in the former British colony, which has long enjoyed freedoms not seen on the authoritarian mainland. Activists have also started to target people and businesses against the protest movement, including setting fire to a man on Monday who remains in critical condition.
Another core demand is for an independent inquiry into the police force, which has been thrust on the front lines to deal with the city’s greatest political crisis, and is loathed by many.
But Hong Kong leaders have continued to dismiss the idea of a dedicated police probe, saying an existing watchdog group could handle related investigations.
An independent panel of experts appointed by the government, however, has issued a damning assessment, saying the Independent Police Complaints Commission is unequipped to do so.
There is “a shortfall in IPCC powers, capacity and independent investigative capability necessary to match the scale of events and the standards required of an international police watchdog operating in a city that values freedoms and rights,” found the panel, chaired by Sir Dennis O’Connor, who was tasked by the UK government to look at police tactics following the 2011 London riots.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam reiterated on Tuesday in her weekly press remarks that the government had no plans to give in, when she came under fire for not ordering the suspension of university classes citywide despite the chaos.
Ms Lam has refused to budge, on Monday saying it was “wishful” thinking for protesters to believe violence would force the government to make concessions. “I’m making this statement clear and loud here: that will not happen.”
Police condemned protesters for having "lost control and committed insane acts" including putting sharp objects on the roads to puncture vehicle tyres. Since Monday, 287 arrests have been made, 60 percent of them students.
"No civilised society can tolerate this dangerous level of violence, regardless of political motives or causes," said senior police superintendent Kong Wing-cheung.
With the protests showing no sign of ending, concern remains that Beijing might call for military reinforcements – a politically fraught move that would call to mind the Tiananmen Square massacre when Chinese troops fired on peaceful student demonstrators in 1989.
Hu Xijin, the editor of the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, reminded Hong Kong authorities, and the public, that the Chinese military was able to deploy at any time.
“You have the backing of not only Hong Kong and Chinese people, but also Chinese soldiers and People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong,” he wrote in a blog. “They can go into Hong Kong to provide support at any time.”
Beijing has accused Western governments of fomenting unrest in Hong Kong as a way to destabilise China, without offering any evidence.
As such, Hong Kong must move to enact a national security law to prevent “foreign forces” from interfering in the city’s affairs, said Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, China’s cabinet.
Doing so now would be likely to further inflame the political situation. In 2003, Hong Kong authorities ditched contentious national security legislation backed by Beijing that would have allowed warrantless searches and even the closure of news outlets critical of government, after mass protests erupted throughout the city.
In recent weeks, however, the ruling Communist Party has made clear that national security in Hong Kong was a priority, language that some experts have interpreted as a plan to re-introduce the controversial law in an attempt to suppress dissent.
Some universities and schools in Hong Kong remained closed on Tuesday over safety concerns and the need to repair facilities. But more skirmishes between police and protesters near and on university campuses caused further damage.
The City University of Hong Kong has also condemned a group of masked individuals who vandalised the university president’s office.
University administrators have come under pressure to support protesters, many of whom are students who have been arrested or injured in police clashes. For senior administrators, however, taking a political stance could draw ire from Beijing and harm their professional prospects.
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