Shot teen charged as Hong Kong considers ban on masks

Chief Executive Carrie Lam will hold a special Executive Council meeting Friday about ban on masks

The teenager who was the first victim of police gunfire in Hong Kong’s monthslong pro-democracy protests was charged Thursday with rioting and attacking police, as calls grew for the government to ban the wearing of masks to subdue rising violence in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The shooting of the 18-year-old Tuesday during widespread clashes marred China’s National Day celebration and marked an alarming escalation in violence in the unrest that has rocked one of the world’s top financial hubs since June.

Local media reported that Chief Executive Carrie Lam will hold a special Executive Council meeting on Friday to discuss a ban on masks, which have helped protesters conceal their identities, and other tough measures under a colonial-era emergency law.

Lam’s office said it had no comment. Pro-Beijing legislator Michael Tien confirmed the meeting. Activists and some lawmakers warned that such harsh measures would only further alienate the people and could prompt a more ferocious backlash.

Anger against the government has built up since Tsang Chi-kin was shot at close range after he struck a police officer with a rod.

Tsang was among seven people charged Thursday with rioting, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. He also faces two additional counts of attacking two police officers, punishable by up to six months in prison.

Tsang and two others who were hospitalized did not appear in court. The government said Tsang’s condition is stable. Dozens of supporters, many in black, sat outside the courthouse.

Thousands of people rallied in several areas Thursday night for a second straight day to demand police accountability for the shooting. Dozens stuck anti-police posters and well-wishes for Tsang on fencing outside his school in Tsuen Wan district in the north.

In the Taikoo Shing area, riot police fired volleys of tear gas after some protesters set up road barriers and smashed a surveillance camera at a subway exit. Hundreds of people earlier shouted abuse at riot police, who used pepper spray and detained at least two people.

WATCH: Hong Kong police slammed as ‘trigger-happy’ after teen shot

Earlier Thursday, over 1,000 students marched Thursday at the Chinese University. Many people felt that firing at Tsang’s chest, close to his heart, was an attempt to kill him.

Police defended the shooting as “reasonable and lawful” because the officer had feared for his life and those of his colleagues.

Videos on social media of the shooting showed a group of black-clad protesters with bars and umbrellas clashing with police. They closed in on a lone officer, who opened fire as Tsang came at him with a rod. Just as another protester rushed in to try to drag Tsang away but was tackled by an officer, a gasoline bomb landed in the middle of the group of officers in an explosion of flames.

The protests that started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill have since snowballed into an anti-China campaign amid anger over what many view as Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s autonomy that was granted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. More than 1,750 people have been detained so far.

Police associations and some pro-Beijing groups have called for tougher measures.

The Junior Police Officers Association, representing front-line officers, said the force has been stretched thin. In a statement Wednesday, it urged the government to impose a curfew and other emergency measures to maintain public order.

A pro-government group, including lawmakers and lawyers, said Thursday that authorities should use the example of a Canadian law that imposes a jail sentence of up to 10 years on anyone wearing a mask during a riot or unlawful assembly.

Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat said the ban would specifically target rioters and wouldn’t curb citizens’ freedom of assembly. While it wouldn’t bring protests to a halt, she said it would help reduce the violence that has wracked the territory.

But Ip Kin-yuen, a legislator representing the education sector, warned it would be akin to “adding oil to the fire” and could further weaken the government in dealing with the crisis.

Legislator Tien said protesters could challenge a mask ban and any curfew order, just as tens of thousands of people have defied police bans on rallies and taken to the streets in the past months.

But he said it could work if the government also responds to at least the key demand of the protesters, which is to hold an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.

“They need to use carrot and stick at the same time,” Tien said.

Eileen Ng, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Sentencing date set for Oak Bay father convicted of killing his two daughters

Andrew Berry was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder last month

Cruise ships leading culprits in rising greenhouse gas emissions at Ogden Point: report

The GVHA released its Emissions Inventory Report just days after City asks for restrictions

Saanich man charged in cross-border drug smuggling operation pleads guilty

William Milton Barnes was charged following a six-month joint investigation

Langford woman charged after allegedly racking up $10,000 in loans using stolen identity

A 32-year-old Langford woman faces theft, fraud, and impersonation charges

Head of Vancouver Island Regional Library system calls Sidney’s claims ‘problematic’

Rosemary Bonanno says the Library Act gives Sidney an ‘exit strategy’

WATCH: Greater Victoria’s top stories of the day

A round-up of the day’s top stories

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

Brothers in Cowichan Valley win big in lottery for second time

Playing same numbers net big wins over a three year period

B.C. woman finds mysterious coin among Grandma’s collection

Grandmother died when she was very young and her past is not well known to her mother

Report of gunshots leads to discovery of deceased male in Campbell River

Police conduct investigation in the south end of Campbell River

Pot use admission at U.S. border snagging Canadian boomers, says lawyer

A waiver to enter the U.S. can cost $2,000 and isn’t a guarantee

Health concerns over vaping cast haze over Canadian cannabis market expansion

More than 1,000 people in the United States, and a handful in Canada, have developed a lung ailment

Most Read