Hundreds of students, alumni and staff have held a sit-in denouncing police violence outside the school of a Hong Kong teenager who was shot in the chest by police on Tuesday.
Tsang Chi-kin, 18, was taken to hospital in a critical condition after the shooting , the first time live ammunition was used on protesters in the city, representing a major escalation of force by authorities.
Signs at Wednesday’s protest included one saying “Students without violence” and others accusing Hong Kong police of “pre-meditated murder”. Most of those gathered wore face masks to shield their identity because of concerns about official retaliation. Secondary schools in Hong Kong were also planning a mass class boycott in response to the shooting.
Other protesters gathered on Wednesday at a courtroom West Kowloon, where 96 people arrested at the weekend were expected to be charged with rioting. It will be the largest mass hearing in the city since the handover from British colonial rule, according to writer and activist Kong Tsung-gan.
A previous court hearing in July for 44 people arrested during protests that month sparked fresh stand-offs with police outside the courtroom.
The lobby of the courtroom was crammed with relatives and supporters lining up for tickets, many also wearing face masks to shield their identity. The courtroom has only 100 spaces, far too few for the gathering crowds.
A mother of one young detainee said she had only seen him at a distance in hospital since he was arrested, because he was receiving treatment for shoulder and arm injuries. She added that she believed all the defendants were facing the same charge of rioting.
On Wednesday the city was still reeling from the worst political violence it has seen since a controversial extradition bill first sparked protests in early June.
Police had refused a permit to organisers of “day of grief” protests, called to mark the 70th anniversary of communist rule in China, but people defied the official ban to turn out in their thousands for gatherings across the city.
Marches that began peacefully had slipped by mid-afternoon into raging battles between protestors and police who deployed tear gas, water cannons and ultimately six rounds of live ammunition.
At least 66 people were injured, four of them seriously, and over 180 people arrested, police said. The demonstrations also paralysed much of the city, forcing the shut down of nearly half its metro stations as authorities tried to prevent larger crowds reaching protest sites.
The chaotic scenes over-shadowed a carefully-choreographed military parade and evening gala meant to celebrate China’s rise to global super-power status, and showcase the rule of strongman president Xi Jinping.
The shooting of Tsang caused particular outrage in Hong Kong and around the world, with the UK calling the use of live ammunition “disproportionate” and Amnesty International calling for an urgent independent investigation.
Police said the officer feared for his life on a day that saw his colleagues fire five warning shots from their pistols throughout the city.
But protest groups hit back, saying the officer charged into the melee with his firearm drawn, and condemned the increasing use of live rounds.
“HK (has) fallen into a de facto police state,” prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted. “The paramilitary security forces completely took over this city.”
A friend and classmate among the crowds demonstrating at his school, who gave his first name Marco, said the 18-year-old victim was a keen basketballer who was infuriated by sliding freedoms in Hong Kong and the police response to the protests.
“If he sees any problems or anything unjust, he would face it bravely, speak up against it, instead of bearing it silently,” Marco told AFP.
On Wednesday morning Tsang was in a critical but stable condition after surgery to remove the bullet, the South China Morning Post reported.
Leaked scans showed it had “barely missed the heart” but Tsang now had relatively good hopes of recovery, medical sources told the paper. “Given his age and good general condition, there is a good chance that he will survive.”
Police have arrested Tsang for assaulting a police officer, and said the use of a fire arm was “lawful and reasonable”, with the officer who fired trying to protect another policeman who was being attacked by protestors.
Twenty four opposition lawmakers strongly condemned police for “unnecessarily escalating the use of force”, in a joint statement. “The policeman’s close-range shooting seems to be an attack rather than self-defence.” it said.
Video footage of the incident showed the officer run towards the group with his pistol drawn, even though he was also armed with pepper spray and a gun that fires non-lethal beanbag rounds.