In a fearsome escalation of violence, Hong Kong police shot a protester in the chest at close range Tuesday, leaving the teenager bleeding and howling on the ground. Tens of thousands joined anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory in a challenge to Beijing’s dominance as the Communist Party celebrated 70 years in power.

The officer fired the single pistol shot as protesters swarmed toward him, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said, hitting the 18-year-old on the left side of his chest. Lo defended the action as “reasonable and lawful,” saying the officer feared for his life and had no other choice.

Hong Kong’s hospital authority said the teen was one of two people in critical condition, with a total of 66 injured as fierce clashes between protesters and police wracked China’s freest and most international city.

A protester runs after setting a government office building on fire in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. In a fearsome escalation of violence, Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range in the chest Tuesday, leaving the teenager bleeding and howling on the ground. Tens of thousands joined anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory even as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
A protester runs after setting a government office building on fire in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. In a fearsome escalation of violence, Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range in the chest Tuesday, leaving the teenager bleeding and howling on the ground. Tens of thousands joined anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory even as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

While officers have fired warning shots in the air on multiple occasions during months of unrest, this was the first time a protester has been struck by gunfire. The shooting marked a dramatic surge in violence that spread chaos to multiple areas.

Lo said there was no order for police to shoot if they are under threat but they can use appropriate force. He described protesters as “rioters,” saying they have committed widespread criminal acts — from attacking police officers, including 25 who were injured, to destroying public property and vandalizing shops and banks linked to China.

“The officer was under attack, his life was threatened. … He made a very quick decision and shot the assailant. I believe it was his best judgment at the time,” Lo said.

A protestor looks out for police during anti-government protest in causeway bay, Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.  in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range, leaving him bleeding from his shoulder and howling on the ground, in a fearsome escalation of anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Tuesday. Tens of thousands marched in a day of rage as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A protestor looks out for police during anti-government protest in causeway bay, Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range, leaving him bleeding from his shoulder and howling on the ground, in a fearsome escalation of anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Tuesday. Tens of thousands marched in a day of rage as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

He added that although the officer also had a rifle for rubber bullets, the event unfolded very quickly. He didn’t answer questions on why the officer fired at the teen’s chest and not his limbs.

Apart from the incident in Tsuen Wan, where the teen was shot, he said officers also fired five warning shots in four other areas, although no one was injured. Police arrested more than 180 protesters, he added.

Local TV stations showed two officers with bloodied faces pointing pistols as protesters who sought to spoil the Oct. 1 anniversary of Communist rule fought pitched battles with riot police.

Protesters take cover in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. A Hong Kong police official says a pro-democracy protester was shot when an officer opened fire with his revolver during clashes Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Protesters take cover in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. A Hong Kong police official says a pro-democracy protester was shot when an officer opened fire with his revolver during clashes Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Video that spread quickly on social media appeared to show the officer opening fire as the masked teenager came at him with a metal rod, striking the officer’s shooting arm. Taken by the City University Student Union, it showed a dozen black-clad protesters throwing objects at a group of police and closing in on the lone officer who pointed his gun and opened fire. The protester toppled backward onto the street, bleeding from below his left shoulder.

As another protester rushed in to try to drag away the wounded youth and was tackled by an officer, a gasoline bomb landed in the middle of the group of officers in an explosion of flames.

“Whilst there is no excuse for violence, the use of live ammunition is disproportionate, and only risks inflaming the situation,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said of the protests in the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

An injured anti-government protester is attended to by others during a clash with police in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China's Communist Party to
An injured anti-government protester is attended to by others during a clash with police in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe )

Riot police fired tear gas in at least six locations and used water cannons in the business district as usually bustling streets became battlefields. Determined to thumb their noses at Chinese President Xi Jinping, protesters ignored a security clampdown that saw nearly four dozen subway stations closed.

Chanting anti-China slogans and “Freedom for Hong Kong,” the dense crowd dressed in mournful black snaked for over a mile (1.6 kilometers) along a broad thoroughfare downtown in defiance of a police ban. Some carried Chinese flags defaced with a black cross. Organizers said at least 100,000 people marched in the biggest rally Tuesday. Police didn’t give an estimate.

“They are squeezing our necks so we don’t breathe the air of freedom,” said King Chan, a 57-year-old homemaker who marched with her husband.

An injured anti-government protester is attended to by others during a clash with police in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China's Communist Party to
An injured anti-government protester is attended to by others during a clash with police in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe )

Demonstrators tossed wads of fake bank notes usually used at funerals into the air. “The leaders who won’t listen to our voice, this is for them,” said marcher Ray Luk.

Thousand others confronted police across the city, the largest number of simultaneous protests since the unrest began in early June over a now-shelved extradition bill that activists say was an example of how Hong Kong’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.

VIDEO: Hong Kong protesters toss funeral money to mourn anniversary of Communist Party rule.

Black-clad protestors stand near burning tires in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. A Hong Kong police official says a pro-democracy protester was shot when an officer opened fire with his revolver during clashes Tuesday. A video of the incident, shot by the City University Student Union and shared on social media, shows a dozen black-clad protesters hurling objects at a group of riot police pursuing them. One officer, who was surrounded, drew his revolver and pointed it at the group. He fired and one protester collapsed on the street while others fled. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Black-clad protestors stand near burning tires in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. A Hong Kong police official says a pro-democracy protester was shot when an officer opened fire with his revolver during clashes Tuesday. A video of the incident, shot by the City University Student Union and shared on social media, shows a dozen black-clad protesters hurling objects at a group of riot police pursuing them. One officer, who was surrounded, drew his revolver and pointed it at the group. He fired and one protester collapsed on the street while others fled. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The smell of stinging tear gas and smoke from street fires started by protesters engulfed the Wan Chai, Wong Tai Sin, Sha Tin, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Tsim Sha Tsui areas. Protesters used power tools to fashion bricks into missiles and came armed with gas bombs. Police said protesters used corrosive fluid in Tuen Mun, injuring officers and some reporters.

A water cannon truck sprayed blue water, used to identify protesters, to disperse crowds from advancing to government offices.

“Today we are out to tell the Communist Party that Hong Kong people have nothing to celebrate,” said activist Lee Cheuk-yan as he led the downtown march. “We are mourning that in 70 years of Communist Party rule, the democratic rights of people in Hong Kong and China are being denied. “

Black-clad protestors stand surrounded by smoke from tear gas shells in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range, leaving him bleeding from his shoulder and howling on the ground, in a fearsome escalation of anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Tuesday. Tens of thousands marched in a day of rage as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Black-clad protestors stand surrounded by smoke from tear gas shells in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range, leaving him bleeding from his shoulder and howling on the ground, in a fearsome escalation of anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Tuesday. Tens of thousands marched in a day of rage as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Activists carried banners saying, “End dictatorial rule, return power to the people.”

As protesters hoped, the chaos in Hong Kong contrasted with anniversary festivities in Beijing, which included a muscular parade of military might. Among those attending was Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose leadership during the crisis has made her a hate-figure for many protesters.

As the city’s government marked the anniversary with a solemn morning ceremony, police used pepper spray to break up a brief scuffle between Beijing supporters and a small group of pro-democracy protesters.

Police fire tear gas at anti-government protesters at Shatin, Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and marched in central Hong Kong on Tuesday, urging China's Communist Party to
Police fire tear gas at anti-government protesters at Shatin, Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and marched in central Hong Kong on Tuesday, urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung told hundreds of guests at a reception that the city has become “unrecognizable” due to the violence. Cheung said Beijing fully supports the “one country, two systems” framework that gives Hong Kong freedoms and rights not enjoyed on the mainland.

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An anti-government protester walks through tear gas smoke during a clash with police at the Wong Tai Sin area in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and marched in central Hong Kong on Tuesday, urging China's Communist Party to
An anti-government protester walks through tear gas smoke during a clash with police at the Wong Tai Sin area in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and marched in central Hong Kong on Tuesday, urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana )
An anti-government protester's umbrella lies on the ground after a clash with police in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China's Communist Party to
An anti-government protester’s umbrella lies on the ground after a clash with police in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Police detain an anti-government protester in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China's Communist Party to
Police detain an anti-government protester in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Police arrive to chase away anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China's Communist Party to
Police arrive to chase away anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Anti-government protesters vandalize a MTR public transport station in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. In a fearsome escalation of violence, Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range in the chest Tuesday, leaving the teenager bleeding and howling on the ground. Tens of thousands joined anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory even as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Anti-government protesters vandalize a MTR public transport station in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. In a fearsome escalation of violence, Hong Kong police shot a protester at close range in the chest Tuesday, leaving the teenager bleeding and howling on the ground. Tens of thousands joined anti-government demonstrations that spread across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory even as Communist leaders in Beijing celebrated 70 years in power. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Police use blue dyed water to disperse anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China's Communist Party to
Police use blue dyed water to disperse anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad protesters marched in central Hong Kong as part of multiple pro-democracy rallies Tuesday urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Police fire tear gas at anti-government protesters at Shatin, Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and marched in central Hong Kong on Tuesday, urging China's Communist Party to
Police fire tear gas at anti-government protesters at Shatin, Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Thousands of black-clad pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and marched in central Hong Kong on Tuesday, urging China’s Communist Party to “return power to the people” as the party celebrated its 70th year of rule. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Marching anti-government protesters are seen through a glass with peeled off posters   , Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Hong Kong while the celebration of the People's Republic's 70th anniversary is taking place in Beijing. Police are warning of the potential for protesters to engage in violence
Marching anti-government protesters are seen through a glass with peeled off posters , Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Hong Kong while the celebration of the People’s Republic’s 70th anniversary is taking place in Beijing. Police are warning of the potential for protesters to engage in violence “one step closer to terrorism” during this week’s National Day events, an assertion ridiculed by activists as propaganda meant to scare people from taking to the streets. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Map shows the protests across Hong Kong Oct. 1;
Map shows the protests across Hong Kong Oct. 1;
Map shows the disruption of metro service.;
Map shows the disruption of metro service.;
Police broke up a scuffle Tuesday between Beijing supporters and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China. (Oct. 1)
Police broke up a scuffle Tuesday between Beijing supporters and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China. (Oct. 1)