A Hong Kong police officer fired one warning shot into the air as protesters chased and attacked him and several colleagues with metal pipes during chaotic scenes in Tsuen Wan, the main site of anti-government demonstrations on Sunday.
Before the gunshot incident – the first of its kind in 12 weeks of intense protests sparked by the now-abandoned extradition bill – a group of about 10 officers had gone to the area around Yi Pei Square and Sam Pei Square in Tsuen Wan, after receiving calls that protesters were vandalising shops at about 7.45pm.
Protesters smashed glass doors and windows in two mahjong parlours while scolding staff inside. They also tried to prise open the roller gate of an arcade gaming centre.
Security cameras and outer walls were also vandalised. The protesters left the site after a few minutes.
Soon after police arrived, officers equipped only with basic riot gear became the new target of the protesters, who charged and attacked them with rods and pipes.
Officers retreated to the nearby junction of Sha Tsui Road and Chung On Street, where six of them drew their revolvers and pointed them at the crowd, which comprised protesters and journalists.
A gun shot was heard soon after. There were no reports of injuries from the shot.
The officers retreated to the staircase of a building on Sha Tsui Road. Other, better-equipped, police arrived soon after to provide backup.
Sources said an Emergency Unit officer fired one shot from a .38 revolver for “warning purposes”.
Before 9pm, Superintendent Leung Kwok-wing from New Territories South regional headquarters confirmed at the scene that an officer had fired a shot after he felt his life was under threat while confronting protesters.
Leung said some protesters were vandalising shops at Sam Pei Square and officers went there to stop them. Amid the chaos, an officer fired a shot into the air.
Five officers who were chased and attacked by protesters were injured and sent to hospital.
After the incident, angry media workers at the site questioned a representative from the police public relations branch as to why officers would point revolvers at them.
The raid against businesses on Yi Pei Square came shortly after police dispersed most of the protesters who were occupying roads in Tsuen Wan, where they had built barriers and thrown petrol bombs and other projectiles at police. Some targeted the Yi Pei Square community, which is known to have a significant number of Fujianese residents who are seen as being staunch supporters of the government.
It was the same spot where residents clashed with protesters in the small hours of August 12, when men dressed in white T-shirts attacked black-clad protesters, who also hit back.
Community members were also said to be related to a knife attack against a protester on August 5.
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung visited several injured officers at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung.
“The officers sustained injuries after being recklessly attacked by rioters while they were on duty in Tsuen Wan earlier [on Sunday],” the force said in a Facebook post. “Mr Lo was saddened that the officers sustained serious injuries while on duty.
“Mr Lo expressed strong anger and condemnation against the reckless, violent and unlawful acts committed by the rioters. The police force will strive to investigate all violent acts that have caused serious and even life-threatening injuries.”
Additional reporting by Christy Leung