The 21-year-old unarmed protester who was shot and critically injured by a police officer in Hong Kong has spoken out for the first time since the incident, describing democracy as a basic human right – and not something people should have to die for.
The shooting of Patrick Chow, which was captured on video and shared widely online, set off a chain of increasingly violent events with clashes erupting across the semi-autonomous Chinese city on November 11. The shocking and bloody scenes were among the worst since the pro-democracy, anti-government demonstrations began almost six months ago.
In a one-on-one interview with CNN Saturday, Chow argued that the government – and not the protesters – must take responsibility for the continued unrest.
“The government is forcing us citizens, telling us peaceful means can’t accomplish what we want,” he said. “That’s why these things have kept escalating. “
In a press conference after the shooting, police said that a traffic officer was arresting a protester when Chow ran towards him. Footage of the shooting shows the officer grappling with a protester before Chow approaches the scuffle.
In the video, the officer raises his gun, and Chow appears to try to wave or slap the gun away as he nears the officer. The officer then fires at close range, to screams from the surrounding crowd of protesters and passersby.
The officer fired the gun because he believed Chow was trying to snatch his gun, and felt he was facing threats from two directions – Chow and the other protester, said a police commander.
If the gun had been taken, “the consequences would be disastrous,” said another police spokesperson. He added that the case would be under investigation, but that they believed the officer did not have “bad intentions.” The officer has gone on leave, but has not been suspended.
According to Chow, however, the police officer had no reason to fire.
“(The police officer) took out his gun and pointed it at the guy in the white jacket,” Chow said, referring to a second protester at the scene. “And I said, why are you pointing it at him? He’s done nothing, we’ve done nothing.”
Following the shooting, Chow was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he said doctors removed his right kidney and part of his liver. The effects of those procedures were still clearly visible Saturday. Unable to stand up straight, Chow walked with a slow limp, his torso heavily bandaged.
Asked whether democracy is worth dying for, Chow reverted the question. “Democracy and freedom are basic things. But the Hong Kong government has denied it to us,” said Chow. “The Basic Law (Hong Kong’s mini-constitution) said we had the right to vote. So we shouldn’t have to give our lives for this – the government must give us our right.”
Since the shooting, Chow claims he has slept badly. The wounds hurt – but his mental health has also taken a toll. Sometimes at three or four in the morning, he will abruptly awake from nightmares in which he relives the moment of the shooting. The images play out in his mind – the officer raises the gun, points it at him, and fires.
Asked if he would ever forgive the officer, his answer was immediate and emphatic. “No, never forgive,” Chow said. “He took my kidney.”
Chow was arrested for unlawful assembly and attempted robbery of the gun, police told CNN, but he has not yet been formally charged. He is now out on bail, and will report for bail in December. He has been legally advised not to discuss the events that preceded the shooting.