Why are pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong wearing eye patches?

Protesters wear eye patches in solidarity with a demonstrator who was reportedly blinded. Credit: AP

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong have added eye patches to their unofficial uniform of black T-shirts, hard hats and gas masks, after a protester was reportedly hit by a bean bag round and blinded.

Footage shared on social media on Sunday, following huge protests in the city, showed a young woman bleeding heavily from her eye.

The unnamed woman is said to be a medic and to have had her eye ruptured when a shotgun shell filled with a small weight hit her goggles.

A medical worker's sign reads 'police fired bean bag round to a medical worker and she lost her eye', as they protest against alleged police brutality. Credit: AP

Bean bag rounds are designed to not be lethal and to deliver a blow that will cause a muscle spasm and stop their target from carrying out their actions.

However, they can prove deadly, and in the US an average of one person per year is killed by them, according to the country's Department of Justice.

A protester inside Hong Kong International Airport holds pictures showing people injured by police. Credit: AP

As protesters occupied Hong Kong International Airport on Monday and Tuesday, leading to the cancellation of hundreds of flights, protesters wore bandages, many of which were covered in fake blood, in solidarity with the injured woman.

Medical staff at 13 hospitals across the territory did the same and launched protests against the police and government.

The image of the woman with blood on her face, lying on the ground, has been taken up by many protesters as a symbol of what they say is police brutality during the 10-week protest movement.

Police initially said that they had no evidence that the injury was caused by their officers, but on Tuesday said they would launch an investigation into the case.

Medical staff at 13 hospitals across Hong Kong took part in protests. Credit: AP
  • Why are people in Hong Kong protesting?

Initially, the demonstrations began in June after Hong Kong's government attempted to introduce an extradition bill which would mean criminal suspects could face trial in mainland China.

However, many felt the bill was another step by Beijing designed to erode their freedoms, including their right to freedom of expression/assembly, a guarantee of human rights, and to live under an independent rule of law, aspects which those on the Chinese mainland do not enjoy.

Hong Kong was promised certain democratic rights when China took over the then-British colony in 1997, but in recent years some have accused Beijing of steadily eroding their freedoms.

Following the bill's unpopularity, Ms Lam has said it had been suspended and was "dead".

Since then, the demonstrations have morphed to include calls Ms Lam's resignation, democratic elections in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, the release of those arrested in earlier protests and an investigation into police use of force against the protesters.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she will visit the injured woman. Credit: AP
  • What has been said about the reported blinding?

Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has said she is "heartbroken" over people who have been injured in the clashes and encouraged those who have been hurt to make police reports.

However, many have alleged police brutality towards the protesters.

One of the demonstrators' demands is that this be investigated.

The Chief Executive said on Monday that she would visit the woman with the injured eye when it is "convenient."

Speaking on Monday, Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee said police were still gathering information about the cause of the woman's injury.

Mr Lee said police have struggled to investigate the case because no one has formally reported the incident.

Police pepper spray protesters. Credit: AP
  • Are the police being heavy-handed in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong police have used beanbag rounds, along with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets and batons, to fight off protesters who have besieged government offices and police stations.

More than 1,800 canisters of tear gas are reported to have been used, and on Sunday, the chemical, which is only meant to be used outdoors, was fired into a station filled with protesters.

However, protesters have also been accused of violence.

On Sunday a police officer was reportedly burnt after a petrol bomb was thrown.