AP PHOTOS: A dramatic escalation of violence in Hong Kong

October 1, 2019 GMT

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police shot an 18-year-old protester at close range in the chest on Tuesday, in a dramatic escalation in violence as tens of thousands joined anti-government demonstrations across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The pistol shot hit the protester on the left side of his chest, and Hong Kong’s hospital authority said he was in critical condition.

While officers have previously fired warning shots in the air on multiple occasions during months of demonstrations in Hong Kong, this was the first time a protester is known to have been shot. There were other instances Tuesday when officers also drew their weapons, including two with bloodied faces who pointed pistols.

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The demonstrations — the latest in a long series — coincided with China’s Communist leaders in Beijing marked their 70 years in power with a military parade. Those attending the celebrations included Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam who led a delegation of Hong Kong officials and dignitaries in a show of unity with the ruling party.

In Hong Kong, thousands confronted police across the city, the largest number of simultaneous protests since the unrest began in early June over fears that the territory’s freedoms and citizen rights are being eroded. The movement has since grown into an anti-Chinese campaign with demands for direct elections for the city’s leaders and police accountability.