Hong Kong violence continues to escalate as China's Xi Jinping makes strongest statement yet

At the start of this week a student protester was shot at close range by a police officer and, in a separate incident, a man arguing with a group of protesters was set on fire. But things haven’t toned down since then. On the contrary, there are new victims on both sides of this battle.

A 15-year-old boy was left in critical condition after being struck in the head during clashes in Tin Shui Wai on Wednesday night.

At around 10pm, the boy was outside Kingswood Richly Plaza when he was hit by a suspected tear gas canister. He underwent brain surgery at Tuen Mun Hospital for four hours and has remained in intensive care since.

There’s video of the aftermath showing the teen on the ground being attended by paramedics:

Separately, there was a street battle between pro-democracy and pro-China groups in which people began throwing bricks at one another. A 70-year-old man was hit in the head and later died from his injuries at the hospital. This clip appears to show the moment the man was struck in the head:

President XI Jinping of China issued his strongest statement yet about the protests, suggesting Hong Kong’s independence could be at stake:

Speaking at the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil, on Thursday, the Chinese President condemned the violence in Hong Kong, saying it was “gravely challenging the bottom line of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principles.”

“We will continue to support the Chief Executive resolutely to lead the HKSAR government to govern by law; firmly support the HK Police Force to strictly enforce the law; and staunchly support HK judicial bodies to punish violent criminals by law,” Xi said.

The NY Times reported yesterday that the Hong Kong police have already escalated their confrontations with student protesters. For the first time, they are encroaching on college campuses where the students congregate:

The most dramatic student-versus-police clash unfolded late Tuesday night at a barricaded bridge leading to the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. For hours, police officers fired hundreds of rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets and students hurled Molotov cocktails and bricks, and practiced firing bows with flaming arrows. More than 100 injured students were brought to a makeshift first-aid clinic in a gym.

This Reuters video published yesterday gives a pretty good summary of the conflict on the campuses this week.

Finally, earlier today the NY Times published a piece about the overall impact on Hong Kong. The city is now in a recession, thanks in part to the months of protests:

Storefronts closed for weekend demonstrations are now shuttered, for weeks or even permanently. Protesters are occupying major roads, rail tracks, bridges and tunnels, cutting off critical thoroughfares for commuters and commerce on a daily basis. Universities are telling students not to come back for the rest of the semester.

Nearly six months into the anti-government protests, life in Hong Kong has dramatically changed, pushing the economy into recession, fraying faith in the authorities and pitting neighbors against one another. The turmoil has upended a city long known for its world-class transport, gleaming towers of global finance and cosmopolitan aura, with the potential to alter Hong Kong’s character.

China probably can’t afford to step on Hong Kong given its financial importance as a bridge between mainland China and the outside world. However, Beijing may believe that if it steps in and crushes the protests things will return to normal afterwards. I don’t think that’s true given that most of the protesters are young people who won’t forget the experience. But China is already violating the human rights of its citizens on a massive scale. It will do the same in Hong Kong if pressed. I’ll give the last word to Nikki Haley: