Masked Attackers Assault Civilians As Record Breaking Demonstrations Continue In Hong Kong
“They hit people indiscriminately, smiling as they beat them up.”
“The Hong Kong police fired rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets on Sunday to disperse protesters after some of them vandalized the Chinese government’s liaison office in the city, a direct challenge to Beijing’s authority after a peaceful protest earlier in the day,” the New York Times (NYT) reported Sunday after hundreds of thousands in Hong Kong continued the massive protests against China’s influence within the administrative district. The civil uprising has surpassed the magnitude of the Umbrella Movement from 2014.
Those committing vandalism are a far smaller contingent than the peaceful protestors by magnitudes of hundreds. Yet they grab a great deal of attention from local Hong Kong and mainland Chinese media, “In a separate clash, footage from a local television station showed, masked men, dressed in white and wielding sticks, assaulted antigovernment protesters in a train station late Sunday night in northwestern Hong Kong,” the NYT piece continued.
Clashes Around Hong Kong This Weekend
The Civil Human Rights Front, who has helped organize the protests in Hong Kong, stated they were able to organize approximately 430,000 individuals for the official events on Sunday. Police spokespeople said approximately 138,000 participated in the officially sanctioned protest on that day. Of note, those participating in the official march are not being blamed for any mischief or violence.
Sunday saw small segments of mischievious protestors vandalize the Chinese government liaison office, who were then hit with tear gas by police after allegedly throwing projectiles at officers. Later that night, men in white masks beat protestors and civilians (including children) with wooden sticks and metal rods at Yuen Long train station.
“It was like a stampede,” said Jerming Zhang, a 16-year-old student and first-aid volunteer who was at the station. “They hit people indiscriminately, smiling as they beat them up.” Those who led the attack have yet to be identified by authorities but could represent a new mob who is against the popular uprising in Hong Kong. Multiple outlets believe the assailants are affiliated with the triad – a term for various sects of organized crime groups in Hong Kong. The supposed gang members injured an estimated forty-five individuals, including leaving one in critical condition, many of which were pro-democracy protestors.
Snippet of a live broadcast from lawmaker Lam Cheuk ting, showing self-professed pro-Gov’t mobsters attacking passengers in train cars at #MTR #YuenLong Stn. #HongKong has 1 of the world’s highest cop to population ratio. Where were @hkpoliceforce? Lam was injured as shown live. pic.twitter.com/Aq5JmJlf5u
— Ray Chan (@ray_slowbeat) July 21, 2019
(📹: Facebook/Lam Cheuk Ting, circulating online) pic.twitter.com/bJKCVjO2wV
— CNA (@ChannelNewsAsia) July 22, 2019
Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting of the Social Liberalism based Democratic Party of Hong Kong was injured in the attack. RTHK reported on his comments to the media after the assault:
Lam said when he heard of the attack, he had immediately called Yuen Long Police District and asked for officers to be sent to the scene urgently. But he said there was no action from the police for more than an hour after he contacted them. The lawmaker said when he reached the train station, a group of local and South Asian people attacked him. He said the attackers were aged between 20 and 60. Lam said he was extremely angry about the lack of police action and questioned why the officers had failed to protect the general public, and allowed what he described as triad gang members to run rampant.
Lam also stated he believed his attackers were members of the triad and were self-identified as being pro-Beijing. Lam received injuries to his abdomen, hands, feet, and mouth.
Chinese State Media Spinning The Protests
“China’s main official news outlets have accused “extremists” of using the “chaos” and violence in Hong Kong to disrupt the country’s development in commentaries published late on Saturday, ahead of the latest rally against the now-suspended extradition bill on Sunday afternoon,” South China Morning Post (SCMP) published on Sunday. SCMP would also detail the Communist Party of China’s newspaper People’s Daily sole focus on supposed “violence” from protestors in Hong Kong.
As noted above, the vast majority of protestors in Hong Kong have been peaceful. The People’s Daily did not specifically go into detail concerning the anger surrounding the now withdrawn extradition bill, mistrust of Carrie Lam’s government in Hong Kong, and the desire of citizens of Hong Kong to be free of Beijing influence.
However, People’s Daily did focus on the pro-Beijing rally which took place on Saturday drawing an estimated 316,000 individuals and 103,000 at its peak, according to organizers and police.
Unsurprisingly the People’s Daily showed support for Chief Executive Lam’s administration in Hong Kong, which protestors believe is acting as a puppet of Beijing.
What Happens Next
The pro-democracy protests have yet to lose momentum, making it unlikely the new uprising will come to a close shortly. However, with civilians and protestors now at risk of being assaulted by masked individuals, a dangerous chapter of the protests could unfold.
Media in mainland China and pro-Beijing networks within Hong Kong are unlikely to draw attention to the thuggish attacks on protestors, yet will continue to highlight the small segments of pro-democracy protestors who resort to vandalism.
International members of the press will need to continue highlighting objective information coming out of Hong Kong to ensure propaganda doesn’t begin to overshadow what is happening on the ground.