Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has called on Hong Kong authorities to swiftly initiate talks with anti-government protesters after an 18-year-old school student was shot during a confrontation with police in the city on Tuesday.
“We strongly regret to learn that a high school student taking part in the protest was shot by a law enforcer of the Hong Kong government,” Tsai’s office said in a statement late on Tuesday.
“The Hong Kong governing authorities should stop their suppressing actions and quickly initiate talks with society, and consolidate their commitment to freedom and democracy for Hong Kong people to address the unnecessary conflicts.”
Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said it was shocked to see police in Hong Kong opening fire on China’s National Day on Tuesday.
“Undoubtedly it was a bloodstained National Day celebration and bloodstained ‘one country, two systems’, and we feel sorry about this,” the party said in a statement.
One country, two systems, the principle that governs Hong Kong’s relationship with Beijing, has been proposed by mainland President Xi Jinping as a means of unifying with the self-ruled Taiwan. The model has been dismissed by Taiwan as unacceptable.
The DPP said Xi had vowed in a speech on Tuesday morning to uphold one country, two systems and maintain stability in Hong Kong – “but in the afternoon, police in Hong Kong used live ammunition to shoot at the public”.
Xi’s words were not consistent with police brutality and life-threatening injuries in Hong Kong, it said, asking: “Is this what lasting prosperity means?”
The student who was shot was in a stable condition on Wednesday and underwent a chest operation to remove the bullet. He was also arrested for assaulting a police officer during the incident in which an officer fired the shot.
Video footage posted online showed a group of protesters chasing a riot policeman, pinning him to the ground and beating him. Another riot policeman arrived to help his colleague, with his service revolver pointed at the protesters. He kicked the student, who swung a metal rod at him, before he opened fire.
On Wednesday, the main opposition Kuomintang condemned Hong Kong police for using firearms against the students, saying it would not help to resolve matters. It also called for the two sides to exercise restraint to prevent bloodshed from happening again.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said accidents were inevitable in serious clashes, adding that if the student had been killed by police, it would have made international headlines.
“It sounds quite shocking if we hear a student was shot by police, and of course we care about the safety of the student … but guns might break loose by accident in confrontations like this,” he said on Wednesday.
Ko, who is seen as a possible contender in next year’s presidential election, said if young people in Hong Kong chose to take to the streets, they must have something they were strongly dissatisfied with, such as unaffordable housing prices and an ever-widening wealth gap.
“So in dealing with the Hong Kong issue, the Beijing government must look into these matters in a serious manner.
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, a Hong Kong student activist and secretary-general of pro-democracy party Demosisto, however, lashed out at Ko for failing to review the case from a broader perspective, saying the Taipei mayor owed the student an apology for saying that guns might become loose during clashes.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s education minister Pan Wen-chung said on Wednesday his ministry has set up a task force to deal with clashes between mainland Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwanese students on campus.
More than a dozen cases have been reported in the past month with mainland Chinese students scuffling with either Hong Kong or Taiwanese students after tearing down notes and posters from various on-campus Lennon walls set up in support of Hong Kong’s protest movement.
“The ministry would never allow students to bully those holding different opinions and the task force has been set up to deal with such violence,” he said.
The ministry set up the task force shortly after Tsai, condemned “bullying acts” by mainland students and instructed that relevant authorities deal with such cases accordingly.
Other than being slapped with demerits, no mainland Chinese students have been expelled so far, according to the ministry.
Some legislators have proposed that the mainland students who tore down notices should been banned from returning to the island.
But Chiu Chui-cheng, vice-chairman of the island’s Mainland Affairs Council, said most colleges had dealt with the incidents leniently and only those prosecuted for vandalism or assault would be barred from returning to Taiwan.
“Mainland Chinese students will only be barred from returning if they violate the law and are prosecuted and punished,” he said.