Hong Kong protesters defy ban, challenging Beijing on Communist China’s 70th birthday

Hundreds of riot-equipped police swooped in to try and break up the protests

Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people,” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. The protesters defied a police ban to march along a broad city thoroughfare, chanting anti-China slogans and carrying Chinese flags defaced with a black cross.

Chaos erupted as hundreds of riot-equipped police swooped in to try and break up the protests, and CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio said video posted online appeared to show one protester being shot at almost point-blank range in the chest by a police officer with a handgun. The wounded protester survived and was being treated for their injury.

Leading pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong told CBS News that he and the other demonstrators felt it was their duty to turn the “dream” of enduring democracy in Hong Kong into a reality, but Inocencio said the scenes on Tuesday were more of a nightmare.

The Hong Kong police confirmed that they were using tear gas to try and disperse the protesters. 

A large group of demonstrators cheered as some from among their ranks tore down a huge red banner, posted by officials on a building in the city’s Central district to mark the 70th anniversary, and set it alight. 

Police warned Monday that hard-line protesters may engage in extreme acts that are “one step closer to terrorism,” such as killing police officers, posing as police officials to kill civilians and large-scale arson, including at gas stations. Activists ridiculed the assertion as a scare tactic.

Some police officers and news media said a few protesters had thrown a corrosive substance at the riot police in the streets. At least one officer was pictured with what appeared to be chemical burns on his clothing and body in photos posted on social media by the police force.

The protests began in early June over a now-shelved extradition bill that activists say was an example of how freedoms and citizen rights in the semi-Chinese territory’s autonomy are being eroded. The movement has since snowballed into an anti-Chinese campaign.

Several smaller rallies are occurring in further districts under a tight security clampdown. At least 11 subway stations were closed, and scores of police stood guard outside government offices.

Many shopping malls across Hong Kong were shut amid fears of chaos. Posters in the city called for the Oct. 1 anniversary to be marked as “A Day of Grief.”

Dressed in a black T-shirt and dark jeans, 40-year-old Bob Wong said his clothing expressed “mourning” over “the death of Hong Kong’s future.”

banner image via CBS News