A Hong Kong police officer who shot a protester with a live round last year faces three criminal charges after a magistrate green lit a rare application for a private prosecution. The Eastern Court on Thursday approved Democratic Party legislator Ted Hui Chi-fung’s legal bid against the policeman, who opened fire during a protest in Sai Wan Ho last November, paving the way for the first criminal prosecution of an officer over the anti-government unrest that erupted a year ago. Senior officers revealed they were highly concerned about the development in an internal memo sent on Thursday night. “The management has been in close contact with the Department of Justice, and will provide all-round support to the affected colleague to ensure his interests are best safeguarded,” the memo said. After receiving the go-ahead, opposition lawmaker Hui said he hoped the court’s decision would send a “clear message” to police that abuse of power would have consequences. How the Hong Kong protests erupted – and what lies ahead “It carries a significant meaning for us ... In the whole of the protest movement against the extradition bill, this is the first time a police officer is being prosecuted because of police brutality and the level of force they use,” he said. The unidentified officer would be served summonses and required to attend court on a date to be determined. Hui started the legal action in February. Hui argued that the officer – who was granted anonymity in another case in which he served as a prosecution witness – should face five serious charges including attempted murder and discharging ammunition in a manner likely to injure or endanger the safety of others. On Thursday, Eastern magistrate Lam Tsz-kan dismissed two of the charges. But he allowed Hui to press ahead with two other firearm-related counts, as well as a further charge of shooting with intent, an offence punishable by life imprisonment. The two firearm-related charges are discharging ammunition with reckless disregard for others’ safety and dealing with arms in a way likely to injure or endanger others’ safety, both carrying a maximum jail sentence of seven years. The November 11 case involves two alleged victims: the protester who survived the shooting and another standing nearby. The protest at the centre of the case was part of the months-long anti-government movement, which was sparked in June last year by opposition to the now-withdrawn extradition bill . It is the second time Hui has been given the green light to lodge a private prosecution over incidents relating to the anti-government protests in the past year. Last week, Hui was given permission to privately lay a charge of dangerous driving against 59-year-old taxi driver Henry Cheng Kwok-chuen. He accused the driver of ramming a cab into a crowd of protesters in Sham Shui Po in October. Hui said on Thursday that Cheng was due to appear at Eastern Court on August 17 to respond to the allegation. Prosecutions are controlled by the Secretary of Justice in Hong Kong, according to the city’s mini-constitution Basic Law . But aggrieved citizens are allowed to bring private prosecutions against others under the common law, the legal system adopted in the colonial era. Only a few cases are privately prosecuted every year, as opposed to the tens of thousands the secretary for justice brings. Lawyer Victor Yeung Siu-yin, who helped Hui, said they could still face one more hurdle if the secretary for justice intervened and required the charges to be dropped, or refused to endorse the indictment. University of Hong Kong law scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming said unless there was a lack of evidence or it was not in the public interest to do so, the justice department should not intervene. Yeung said his team would ask the court to move the officer’s case to the High Court for trial by jury. A spokesman from the Department of Justice said the minister had a duty to discontinue cases with no reasonable prospect of conviction, that were contrary to the public interest, or were brought for political reasons in a way that constituted injustice. But he added it was inappropriate to comment on an ongoing individual case. A police spokesman declined to comment, citing ongoing legal proceedings.