- 'Livid' Fu Jai says he was walking home from dinner when he was struck by a pepper ball in Mong Kok
- Police say they used 'minimum force' to clear protesters, officers did not 'shoot randomly'
Police face legal action from a man who said he was shot at close range with a crowd control projectile while in the area of a Hong Kong protest, leaving him with serious eye injuries.
The "shocked and livid" 27-year-old, who gave his name as Fu Jai, said he was walking home through Mong Kok when he was hit with what he believed to be a pepper ball fired by an officer.
A spokeswoman for the force said they used "minimum force" to disperse the unlawful assembly on Tuesday.
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Speaking to the Post with a bloodshot left eye, Fu Jai said he was prepared to sue the force after suffering a ruptured eyeball and internal bleeding that left him with blurred vision and fearing permanent damage to his vision.
"I will engage lawyers to explore my next steps, including taking them to court to get justice," the air conditioner maintenance worker said.
"Of course I want to know the name of the officer involved and why he shot me, given I was not involved in any protests or committed any violent acts towards them (police) that night."
Fu Jai is at least the third person suffering eye injuries after allegedly being shot by a police weapon since the anti-government protests erupted in Hong Kong six months ago.
A young woman said she was hit by a beanbag round in her right eye in August during clashes between police and protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui, while Indonesian journalist Veby Mega Indah was blinded in one eye by a projectile fired by police during a dispersal operation in Wan Chai in September.
Sparked in June by fierce opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill, the demonstrations, many of which have descended into violence, have developed into an anti-government movement demanding the revival of the city's stalled political reform process and an independent investigation into the police conduct at protests.
Fu Jai said he was on his way home from dinner with friends when he was injured at about 1.30am on Tuesday, near the shopping centre Langham Place in Shantung Street, Mong Kok.
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He said up to seven riot police and Special Tactical Squad officers, known as "Raptors", stood on nearby Nathan Road, holding but not raising a blue flag that warned protesters to disperse or face force, while shouting at people to leave.
"I was slowly walking away with 10 or so pedestrians, when suddenly the officers charged at us with one yelling loudly," Fu Jai said.
"Startled by the loud voice, I turned around and was immediately shot at close range with a pepper ball in the eye.
"I felt stinging and it was very painful, and I could not open both of my eyes. The officers had run away before I could see their faces or warrant numbers."
He said he was not wearing a mask or googles, and was simply dressed in a grey coat and trainers.
Video clips circulating online show a group of pedestrians pushed and on the receiving end of pepper spray and balls, with some falling to the ground.
Fu Jai was taken via ambulance to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei before being transferred to Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po for eye surgery under anaesthesia for a ruptured eyeball and internal bleeding.
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After an operation, he said he was still suffering from blurred vision, and could not open his eye fully under sunlight.
"My eye looks a bit lopsided to the left now, and my physicians were still uncertain about the long term ramifications. I dread to think if I would suffer a permanent loss of sight."
Pepper balls contain chemical irritants similar to those found in pepper spray and are fired from non-lethal guns.
Jeffrey Pong Chiu-fai, a specialist in ophthalmology who has seen the patient's notes, said a rupture and laceration in the eye globe and cornea was likely in Fu Jai's case, which would result in at least a 10 to 20 per cent permanent loss of vision.
"Eye rupture is a serious injury and it appears the impact at close range was strong. Recovery will depend on whether there is any future infection, which can even spread from one eye to another," Pong said.
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Fu Jai will take a month off from work to rest, and wants police to investigate the incident.
"I have no faith in the Complaints Against Police Office and the force itself, which may even retaliate and charge me with an offence if I come forward to give a statement.
"The past six months have shown that our disciplined force has no discipline, and they carry out whatever action with impunity and no justification. I never thought an innocent person like me would get attacked in this way."
A police spokeswoman said that at the time of the incident protesters had gathered at an unlawful assembly and blocked roads in Mong Kok, including Shantung Street, Portland Street and Nathan Road.
Officers used "minimum force" including pepper ball launchers and pepper spray to disperse the crowd after delivering verbal warnings for people to leave, the spokesman said. She added officers did not "shoot randomly".
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