Nov. 10 (UPI) -- A police officer shot a pro-democracy protester and a pro-Beijing man was set on fire by demonstrators in Hong Kong on Monday, as protesters clashed with police in one of the most violent days of the monthslong protest.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said both victims were in critical condition and at least 60 people were injured during the protests aimed at bringing the city to a halt. She warned those trying to bring about change through violence to think again.
"If there is still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence the Hong Kong as your government will yield to pressure to satisfy the so-called political demands, I'm making this statement clear and loud here: That will not happen," she said during an evening press conference.
Protesters across the embattled semiautonomous region attempted to instigate a general strike on Monday by disrupting traffic through erecting barricades at major thoroughfares. Train service was also impacted by protests with lines suspended and stations closed due to "an escalation of the situation," MTR said on its website. Police said protesters threw petrol bombs to disrupt the MTR service.
An officer fired three shots at two protesters after 7 a.m, striking one of them who then fell to the ground, according to a graphic video of the event posted to Facebook by Cupid Producer. The shooting followed a short scuffle between the officer and a protester at an intersection in the Sai Wan Ho neighborhood.
In a statement, Hong Kong Police said an officer discharged his service weapon, resulting in a male being shot. It denied, however, allegations that management informed officers to "recklessly use" their firearms.
"Police clarifies that this allegation is totally false and malicious," police said in the release. "Police has strict guidelines and order regarding the use of firearms. All police officers are required to justify their enforcement actions."
In a press conference, a police spokesman said officers were on the scene to disperse the "mob" and one officer making an arrest pulled out his gun when surrounded by protesters and fired off a shot in warning that hit the 21-year-old protester.
"At that time, the officer believed it was very likely that the revolver would be snatched and the consequences would be disastrous," the spokesman said. "Death and casualties would have resulted."
The officer "did not have bad intentions to hurt anyone," the spokesman said, adding that the incident was under investigation.
Two protesters were arrested at the scene, police said, adding that the man who was shot had undergone surgery and there was "no immediate threat to his life."
Amnesty International called the shooting "a shocking low" for the Hong Kong police during the months of unrest that has rocked the region, stating the shooting is "clear evidence of reckless use of force."
"This pervasive, heavy-handed behavior shows the police cannot investigate themselves," Amnesty International Hong Kong Directory Man-kei Tam said in a statement. "Today's actions again require an urgent independent investigation. The authorities must review their approach to help de-escalate difficult crowd control situations, not make them worse."
Tam called for the officer to be suspended immediately.
The spokesman said during the conference that police arrested 266 people between the ages of 11 to 74 since last Monday and an officer who drove his motorcycle into a crowd early that morning near the Kwai Fong area had been suspended.
A man was also hospitalized Monday after he was set on fire by a group of pro-democracy protesters in Ma On Shan. Video of the incident shows a man being doused with a liquid and then lit on fire after arguing with a group of protesters.
The police spokesman said the man was in critical condition.
Monday's violence followed a weekend when police and demonstrators clashed throughout the region, which has been home to often violent confrontations since early summer. Protests initially began over a now-shelved extradition bill, but the movement has since grown into a greater pro-democracy push.
In a release, Hong Kong Police referred to the demonstrators as "radical protesters" and said officers were working to clear the roads.
"Police warn the protesters to stop their illegal acts immediately," the police force said in a press release.
Protesters had called for an escalation in demonstrations and for a general strike following Friday's death of Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old computer science student at Hong Kong University, who succumbed to injuries he sustained days earlier after he fell from a parking garage during protests on Nov. 4.
Police have denied responsibility for his death and said in a release that the incident was under investigation by the Regional Crime Unit of Kowloon East.
Hong Kong Police said it expresses its "profound sadness" over his death and offered its "condolences to his family and friends."
The United States condemned the violence, stating that they are watching the situation with "grave concern."
"The increased polarization within Hong Kong society underscores the need for a broad-based and sincere dialogue between the government, protesters and citizenry write large," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. "The United States urges the Hong Kong public and begin efforts to address the underlying concerns driving the protests."