In the chaos of intense pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, a young woman was captured in a viral video on Sunday, her face badly bloodied.

A projectile had hit her right eye, fueling speculation about who fired it and what the escalating violence meant for the people of Hong Kong, who for two months have been protesting what they see as the Chinese government's excessive influence over their semiautonomous territory.

The demonstrators alleged that the projectile, perhaps a beanbag, was fired by police. Authorities said at a news conference that there was no proof to back up that claim.

The unidentified woman was hit in the eye with a projectile thought to be a beanbag from an officer's gun. Photo / Twitter
The unidentified woman was hit in the eye with a projectile thought to be a beanbag from an officer's gun. Photo / Twitter

From the tension, a new rallying symbol was born.

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"Eye for an eye," some protesters shouted as they continued their sit-in at the Hong Kong International Airport this week, forcing the cancellation of all flights Monday and Tuesday.

Demonstrators also sprayed-painted "eye for an eye" throughout the airport in Chinese and in English, and covered their faces with mock eye patches made of gauze. Some coloured them red, to signify blood.

Protesters wearing eye patches during a demonstration at the airport in Hong Kong. Photo / AP
Protesters wearing eye patches during a demonstration at the airport in Hong Kong. Photo / AP

Kelvin Liu, a 19-year-old student at the protest, told Agence France-Presse that they had chosen the airport as their site because they believed police would not show excess force in front of international visitors.

The belief was that "police wouldn't act unreasonably," Liu said, "because if people from other countries see how police can come in and hit people, that would be serious."

For two months, the pro-democracy demonstrators have been calling for change in Hong Kong, which has existed as a semiautonomous part of China since the British handed it over in 1997.

The eye patch has become the latest symbol of the escalating protests after a woman was struck in the eye with a projectile thought to be a beanbag from a mainland officer's gun. Photo / AP
The eye patch has become the latest symbol of the escalating protests after a woman was struck in the eye with a projectile thought to be a beanbag from a mainland officer's gun. Photo / AP

The protests began in June, initially over a bill that would allow Hong Kongers to be extradited to China, which raised fears that the freedoms enjoyed by the residents of the territory would be further diluted. The protests have since expanded to include demands related to Hong Kong's election process, calls for investigations into police use of force during the demonstrations and a push for all charges to be dropped against the protesters.

But China has issued ominous warnings to the demonstrators and called the protests "terrorism."

Apart from the incident involving the woman with the bloodied face, other violence captured on video and in photos this week included video footage of a police officer using his knee to push a man's face into a pool of his own blood.

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Protesters have occupied Hong Kong airport this week, causing mass disruption. Photo / AP
Protesters have occupied Hong Kong airport this week, causing mass disruption. Photo / AP

"Sorry," the pinned protester can be heard saying. "Don't do this, I beg you."

On Monday, authorities said that the video of the incident involving the woman would have to be verified and that they could not confirm "the reasoning behind this lady's injury."

The unidentified woman was treated by medics and taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she underwent surgery, reported the Straits Times. The South China Morning Post quoted a doctor as saying that her injury was "really serious."

Eventually, the eye-patch protests moved to the hospital, too.