BEIJING — China’s authoritarian president used the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule on Tuesday to pledge that nothing would stop his nation’s ascent. But the message was marred by some of the worst anti-government violence to convulse Hong Kong, including the first police shooting of a protester.
Anticipation of a confrontation in Hong Kong on the anniversary, which Chinese leaders in Beijing consider a sacrosanct event, had been building since the protests began this summer in the semiautonomous territory bordering southern China. It intensified in recent weeks as a combative core of protesters confronted police officers who have relied more heavily on force.
The split-screen contrast of tightly choreographed goose-stepping military formations in Beijing to celebrate the National Day versus the chaos of firebombs and rubber bullets in Hong Kong was jarring, and almost certainly infuriating to President Xi Jinping.
It laid bare how Mr. Xi’s image and agenda have become hostage to the months of protests, undermining his reputation for unshakable control.
As the festivities in Beijing got underway, Mr. Xi offered his government as a guarantor of “prosperity and stability” in Hong Kong. But after the parade ended, protesters in Hong Kong directly challenged China’s hold over the city, clashing with the police in multiple neighborhoods that turned vast swathes of the territory into a tear gas-choked and bonfire-filled battlefield.
“I think they’ve succeeded in spoiling the show,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University who specializes in Chinese politics. “The media will be split between covering the parade in Beijing and covering what’s happening in Hong Kong.”
For Mr. Xi, every element of the military parade and civilian march marking 70 years since Mao founded the People’s Republic was designed and meticulously rehearsed to show that his authoritarian policies were transforming China into a wealthy, militarily formidable and socially united superpower.
He presided over an 80-minute parade by China’s military that included the first public showing of a missile that can carry 10 nuclear warheads and hit anywhere in the United States. A civilian march displayed the country’s economic and technological accomplishments, including its homegrown C919 jetliner, its Jade Rabbit moon rover and a Long March space rocket.
“No force can shake the status of our great motherland,” Mr. Xi said, overlooking Tiananmen Square. “No force can obstruct the advance of the Chinese people and Chinese nation.”
While this year’s parade, as previous ones, was intended to strut the country’s military might, it also reflected a modernization program that Mr. Xi has pushed through the People’s Liberation Army.
Several new weapons made their first public appearances, including supersonic and stealth drones and an unmanned underwater vehicle. So did the country’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile, called the DF-41, that can deliver multiple nuclear warheads around the world.
“I’ve heard what President Xi has said about focusing on peace but I am also sure that China will not display weakness,” Gao Yuan, 23, a worker in Beijing’s high-tech district, said after watching the parade, one of an estimated 120 million who did so, according to state media. “We are very powerful — just look at our tanks and planes and you can see how very strong our country is.”
All the displays of China’s economic and military strength, however, seems unable to silence those in Hong Kong who oppose Mr. Xi’s increasingly intolerant ideological rule over China.
In his speech marking the national anniversary, Mr. Xi promised to keep Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” framework, designed to give it considerable legal and political autonomy after the British left in 1997. But critics say Mr. Xi has hijacked it to increase Chinese leverage over the city.
The protests started in June over a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the party controls the courts. They quickly evolved into calls for police accountability and broader democratic reforms by protesters, who felt the Hong Kong political establishment had been overly beholden to Beijing and allowed it to erode their freedoms.
In Hong Kong, the protesters seized on China’s long-planned 70th anniversary celebrations as a moment to humble Mr. Xi. Tens of thousands marched through a busy shopping district in the afternoon despite a police ban. Chants of a popular protest slogan, “Reclaim Hong Kong; revolution of our times,” echoed off a canyon of skyscrapers and shuttered malls.
“I couldn’t just sit home today,” said Stanley Luk, 65, who owns a handbag factory on the mainland but joined the protest march. “There’s not much we can do. But at least we can tell Beijing no, we don’t want to live the way they do.”
115 Days of Hong Kong Protests. How Did We Get Here?
The protests started as peaceful marches and rallies against an unpopular bill. Then came dozens of rounds of tear gas and a government that refused to back down.
Clashes quickly broke out in other areas where hundreds of black-clad protesters fought with riot police officers, lobbing firebombs, setting piles of trash on fire and attacking the premises of private businesses they deemed as sympathetic to Beijing.
When the protesters refused to retreat, the police fired bullets, mostly into the air.
But in the Tsuen Wan neighborhood, near Hong Kong’s border with the Chinese mainland, a police officer shot an 18-year-old in the left shoulder during a melee.
Video footage showed that before the shooting, a protester had been among a large group of people who tackled a police officer to the ground and beat him with what looked like metal pipes. That protester then turned to a second police officer, who was backed against a shuttered storefront with his gun drawn. The officer fired at close range, after the protester appeared to have hit him.
The shooting was likely to further inflame tensions in the territory. The protesters had already been enraged by what they see as police brutality over the summer, while supporters of the police have felt that the demonstrators have excessively tested the tolerance limits of the force.
Natalie Chan, a university student who was protesting on Tuesday night in the Tuen Mun district, not far from Tsuen Wan, said that the Hong Kong police were “hurting innocent people.”
“We can’t let them continue,” Ms. Chan said of the police, as nearby protesters smashed traffic lights and the windows of shops and restaurants.
Mr. Xi has never mentioned the tumult in the territory. And for months, he seemed to have decided to leave it to the Hong Kong authorities to handle.
The question now, with the holiday having passed, is whether Mr. Xi’s calculus will change. China is already facing myriad challenges — from the trade war with the United States to economic pressures that are slowing growth to the lowest level in years — that could make the authorities in Beijing lose patience with the defiance in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, Carrie Lam, attended the parade, seated on the rostrum of the Tiananmen Gate with Mr. Xi, and former leaders, the members of the Communist Party’s Standing Committee and other provincial leaders. Her critics in Hong Kong derided her smiling presence in Beijing as that of a supplicant, not an autonomous leader, which illustrated the depth of the chasm between the two sides.
As evening fell and Beijing prepared for celebratory fireworks, Hong Kong had descended into some of the most intense clashes seen since the protests began almost four months ago.
The protests paralyzed large areas of the territory as major thoroughfares were blocked in tense standoffs between demonstrators and the police. Subway stations, libraries, shopping malls and storefronts were shut in nine districts where the protests erupted.
Sirens of ambulances and fire trucks wailed as the police chased and accosted the protesters. Some demonstrators burned Chinese flags and photographs of Mr. Xi. The police said some protesters attacked officers with a “corrosive fluid,” causing chemical burns, and threw gasoline bombs into a train compartment and onto a subway station platform.
In the end, more than 180 people were arrested, 25 officers were injured and 74 people were hospitalized including two in critical condition, the authorities said.
The Hong Kong police commissioner, Stephen Lo, told reporters at a midnight news conference that doctors were treating the 18-year-old who had been shot. Mr. Lo said the authorities would decide later whether to press charges against him for assaulting a police officer.
Mr. Lo also said the police officer who fired had acted in a “legal and reasonable” manner by giving a verbal warning beforehand, and that the officer had been forced to shoot after being assaulted at close quarters.
“The range was not determined by the police officer, but by the perpetrator,” he said.
But some Hong Kongers felt that the authorities were to blame for allowing the day to spiral into chaos.
In Wong Tai Sin, where the police fired tear gas near a retirement home, dozens of residents without masks or protest gear shouted at officers to retreat. Some mocked the city’s leader, Mrs. Lam, for having left town.
“I want to cry. I come downstairs and feel that I have walked into a war zone,” said Vincey Wu, a 53-year-old accountant. “Carrie Lam has gone off to celebrate National Day. But has she thought about her people who are breathing in tear gas?”