Two officers opened fire when an attacker refused to stop assaulting his victim; three men taken to hospital with gunshot and stab wounds
Two men were in hospital with gunshot wounds on Sunday night after Hong Kong police opened fire to stop a gang armed with machetes attacking a man in Yau Ma Tei at dawn.
Officers said they fired four shots after the attackers ignored their repeated warnings to stop. One man was in a critical condition after taking three bullets to the waist and hip. The other was recovering from a gunshot wound on his arm.
They were both arrested for assault, accused of attacking the victim who was also in hospital recovering from unspecified wounds. Police on Sunday night were still hunting for three or four more men who fled the scene during the chaos.
In a statement issued late on Sunday night, the police claimed its two officers had followed principles on the use of force having regard to the prevailing circumstances of the time.
Conditions under which a firearm can be used include protecting any person, including him or herself, from life threatening or serious bodily harm, arresting someone potentially violent attempting to evade arrest or “quelling unrest or riots”, the police said.
Yau Ma Tei police divisional commander Adrian Ma Wai-hing said two officers from the emergency unit had come across a brawl involving five or six South Asian men at 6.05am.
“The victim was attacked by machetes and so his life was in danger. In order to stop the attackers, the officers decided to fire shots after verbal warnings were ignored,” Ma said.
“One of the attackers continued to attack the victim after the first shot was fired. A second shot was subsequently fired in order to stop the attack.”
The attack happened at the intersection of Nanking Street and Parkes Street. The shots were fired from a distance of about 10 metres.
Dramatic video clips posted online captured the violence and fear of onlookers as the normally bustling neighbourhood was just beginning to wake up.
The footage shows several men chasing a man to a corner and attacking him with weapons as he collapses to the ground. Two officers approach seconds later, yelling at them to drop their weapons.They continue their attack and the officers fire four shots at them. The footage is not clear at this point, but can be heard. One of the attackers runs away and jumps into a taxi, but a plainclothes officer pulls him out of the vehicle and subdues him.
“That was scary … the officer pulled him out of the taxi. I must be having really bad luck to run into him,” the driver recalled. “He said he was in great pain and asked me to take him to hospital.”
Two machetes, each about half the length of an arm, were taken from the scene by police.
The two men arrested are aged 23 and 25. The victim is 33 years old. Police identified them as South Asians but did not confirm their nationalities. Local reports suggested they were all Nepalese.
Yau Tsim Mong District Council chairman Chris Ip Ngo-tung said the area was not as crime-ridden as in the 1980s and 1990s. But he noted that residents had complained of more street brawls in recent months.
“We have earlier requested the police to step up patrols in the area. They have in fact done so,” Ip said.
Jeffrey Andrews, a social worker who helps ethnic minority communities, said many of the social problems and crimes among them stemmed from government policies that were not inclusive enough.
“From education to employment, many of the ethnic minorities feel alienated from society,” he said, pointing out that language was a “huge obstacle”.
“There is high unemployment, high drug use; many feel it is just more profitable to be in gangs,” he said.
Andrews said Yau Tsim Mong was a densely populated district and home to many ethnic minority residents struggling to integrate, which only aggravated problems. He called on the government to provide more funding to non-governmental organisations to promote sports and recreation for youth in particular.
“Many Nepalese kids [there] don’t have much to do. They don’t have jobs. They want to play football but there aren’t any pitches. They have no means to vent ,” Andrews said.
At the same time, he also lamented biased and prejudiced reporting in the media about lower income ethnic minority communities when it came to crime. He said it drew attention away from the progress many had made over the years, such as the higher number going to university.
According to police figures, 2,516 crimes were reported in the first half of this year in Yau Ma Tei and Tsim Sha Tsui. That was a rise of 4.9 per cent, or 119 cases, over the same period last year.
Officers combing the area in the aftermath of the shooting. Photo: Sam Tsang