© Anthony Wallace/Afp Via Getty ImagesPolice officers cordon off an area where pro-democracy protesters were shot by a police officer in Hong Kong on Monday.
HONG KONG -At least two pro-democracy protesters were shot by Hong Kong police Monday morning as the city braced for a general strike to mark the death of another protester killed during a police operation the previous weekend.
The incident occurred in Sai Wan Ho as activists attempting to block a busy street were confronted by a traffic police officer, according to a live news feed. After the officer began grappling with one protester, he fired a live round into the abdomen of another protester approaching him. Two more rounds were subsequently fired at another protester.
A police spokesperson confirmed that live rounds were fired and that two protesters were injured outside the Sai Wan Ho MTR station and taken to Eastern Hospital. A 21-year-old man was in critical condition, hospital officials said.
Seven universities across Hong Kong suspended classes as of Monday morning, citing "serious traffic disruptions" across the city.
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The city has been gripped by five months of political unrest that began when chief executive Carrie Lam tried to push through an unpopular extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to face trial in mainland China.
A protester who fell from a multistory parking garage during a police dispersal operation a week earlier died from his injuries on Friday, escalating tensions between police and the public that have been increasingly strained over the months of worsening violence.
On Oct. 1, China's National Day, the first live round to hit a protester was fired by riot police pursued by protesters in the distant suburb of Tsuen Wan.
Public anger has grown as Hong Kong authorities, backed by Chinese officials, have deployed increasingly forceful tactics to try to quell the anti-government unrest. Lam has refused to authorize an independent inquiry into police actions, a key demand of protesters.
At the University of Hong Kong, police fired tear gas early Monday to disperse crowds. Several subway exits leading to the campus were vandalized and riot police shut down a main entrance to the campus.
Protesters built barricades around the campus using picnic tables and desks and poured liquid detergent on the floor.
Without an independent probe of police actions, "the protests aren't going to stop," said Jackie, 22, a research scientist who was photographing her friends ahead of their planned graduation ceremony on Monday. She only gave one name out of fear of retribution.
In recent days, a panel of experts brought in by the Hong Kong government found that the city's police watchdog was unfit to carry out an independent investigation into the police force.
Chinese officials, meanwhile, have backed Lam and called for tough measures to end the protests and safeguard national security.
Protesters are calling for full democracy in Hong Kong, amid concerns that Beijing is tightening its grip and reneging on a promise to allow the financial hub a high degree of autonomy until 2047, half a century after its handover from British colonial rule.
Shibani Mahtani in Washington contributed to this report.