Two protesters in Hong Kong were shot by police on Monday morning as calls for a strike from anti-government demonstrators led to a heavy police presence and transport chaos across the Chinese territory.
Police confirmed a case of live fire in a neighbourhood in the east of Hong Kong island and said at least two people had been shot. Protesters had blockaded the road outside the Sai Wan Ho metro station at rush hour.
The strike on Monday was called in response to the death of a student on Friday following a fall in what is being treated by some protesters as the first fatality linked to the months-long demonstrations. A series of vigils were held over the weekend in memorial for 22-year-old Chow Tsz-lok.
Police in riot gear were scattered across the territory on Monday and protesters blocked commuters from entering some metro stations.
The MTR, Hong Kong’s metro operator, said it had closed some stations, reduced the frequency of trains and suspended parts of some lines.
Video footage that was circulated widely online of the shooting showed an officer grab a protester before firing towards other demonstrators, with one of them falling to the ground.
The clashes come after a top Chinese official in Hong Kong said at the weekend that it was now an “urgent task” to strengthen security legislation in the territory as a lack of such laws was partly to blame for the months of protests.
Zhang Xiaoming, head of the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said the local government’s failure to bring in Article 23, which bars secession and subversion against Beijing, was one of the reasons for the recent unrest.
When the bill was proposed in 2003, 500,000 people marched against the legislation in what was, until June this year, the largest protest since the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Over the weekend a panel of international experts appointed by the Hong Kong government said the local police force’s watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints commission, lacked the investigative capacity to probe allegations of police brutality.
An extradition bill that would have seen criminal suspects sent to mainland China for the first time sparked street protests in June. The protesters’ demands have broadened to include calls for an investigation into alleged police brutality and the right to elect the city’s leader. The bill has since been withdrawn.