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Hong Kong student protester shot by police charged with assault

The officer fired as the teen struck him with a metal rod on China's National Day.

HONG KONG — Criminal charges were filed Thursday against the 18-year-old Hong Kong student who was shot by a police officer as pro-democracy protests hit a new level of violence this week.

Police told NBC News the student, identified as Tsang Chi-kin, was charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer and rioting as tens of thousands of black-clad protesters took to the streets of the semiautonomous territory Tuesday.

The monthslong pro-democracy protests that have gripped Hong Kong began in June in reaction to a now withdrawn extradition bill but have since morphed with calls for greater police accountability and an investigation into allegations of excessive use of force.

The shooting Tuesday happened amid one of the most violent days of the demonstrations. Marking the first time a protester was struck by live ammunition, the shooting has inflamed anger against police.

Police officials defended the officer Wednesday, saying his life was in imminent danger and he fired as the teen struck him with a metal rod. Queen Elizabeth Hospital confirmed to NBC News that Tsang’s condition was stable after surgery and that he was recovering in the intensive care unit.

If found guilty, the charge of assaulting a police officer comes with a sentence of two years in prison while the rioting charge has a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

A total of 269 people, ranging from ages 12 to 71, were arrested on the day, police said. Cases began to be heard in Shantin court Thursday.

Thousands of people, including Tsang's fellow students at a Hong Kong college, rallied Wednesday to demand police accountability for the shooting.

Veta Chan reported from Hong Kong and Linda Givetash from London.