On Sunday, dozens of men in white shirts attacked protesters and passengers in the Yuen Long MTR station at around midnight.
The mob in white shirts are suspected to be triad gangsters — whose goal is to hurt pro-democracy protesters who were traveling back from a rally. Armed with long sticks and batons, the gang started beating people in the station randomly. Most of the people targeted are the ones wearing black, which is the color of protest.
Videos of the attacks were posted via social media. Men in white can be heard shouting while brandishing batons and long sticks. An estimate of 45 people was sent to the hospital following the violence. According to Hong Kong’s Information Services Department, one person is in critical condition, and five are in serious condition.
Gywneth Ho, a journalist for Stand News HK, filmed the attack via her mobile phone. In the video, multiple men in white started walking towards her with long sticks. She was beaten but was able to get away temporarily. She continued filming only to be hit from behind. That’s when she (and her phone) went down.
Citizens and lawmakers had criticized how there was a lack of police officers when the attack happened. Responding police officers were not in protective gears and had to wait for back up.
Before the attack in the Yuen Long station, protesters also found themselves violently dispersed. At least 400,000 people marched to the city’s Central and Sheung Wan districts. Protesters wore black and chanted, “Free Hong Kong!”
Following the seventh week of mass protests, police used tear gas and rubber bullets on a group of young activists who marched beyond the designated endpoint of the rally.
According to CNN, the protesters retaliated by throwing bricks at the police officers. They also spray-painted on the walls near the Chinese government’s liaison office.
Protesters continued with the protest marches despite the suspension of the controversial Extradition Bill. The citizens are calling for the total withdrawal of the bill. Calls for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down from office is also one of the protester’s demands.
Recently, protests have turned violent. On July 16, police also clashed with rioters that led to the arrest of 40 people and the hospitalization of 28 others.
Speculations of Government and Triad Gangster Alliance
Opposition lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting suggested that the attack is carried out by the organized crime syndicate. Lam was on the train when the attack happened. Similar to Ho, Lam also took to live broadcast the attack using his mobile phone.
Ray Chan, a pro-democracy lawmaker also tweeted about his thoughts on the attack. He asked, “Hong Kong has one of the world’s highest cop to population ratio. Where were @hkpoliceforce?”
Due to the surprising lack of police on site of the attack, government critics are now speculating that the police and the mob, also known as the Triad, are working together.
Zachary Wong Wai-yin, Democratic Party lawmaker and Yuen Long district councilor, told CNN, “We believe that police and Triads are linked to manage Hong Kong.”
What’s more baffling is that there has been no arrest of any men in white since Sunday. According to Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun Chung, arrests were not made because the two responding officers were still waiting for back-up when the men have finished with the attack and left the station.
One of the fuel to the speculation is a video of pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho coming up to men in white on the street. He was captured shaking hands with the group and giving them a thumbs-up. The men were also holding sticks in the video.
Ho denied any connection with the attack and mentioned that he only responded to the greetings of his supporters.
In a press conference, Chief executive Lam expressed her disapproval for the violence that took place over the weekend. She further asserts that the government will launch an investigation on the incident at Yuen Long station.
“Let me make this clear: violence is not a solution to any problem, violence will only breed more violence,” Lam says.
Lam also condemned the violence done by the protesters; specifically showing disapproval on the defaced building of the Chinese Liaison Office.
Prior to Lam’s press conference, the Hong Kong government issued a statement. It said, “This is absolutely unacceptable to Hong Kong as a society that observes the rule of law. The SAR Government strongly condemns any violence and will seriously take enforcement actions.”
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo also address rumors of the government working with mobsters. During the press conference with Chief executive Lam, Lo emphasized that they will investigate the actions (or inaction) of the police force during the incident.
“We will investigate whether we were inefficient, but we are not related to triads. I ask you to trust the police force. Last night, we were all focusing on Hong Kong island. We needed to regroup for Yuen Long. I hope you have confidence in us,” Lo said.
In response to the attack, pro-democracy protesters have announced that the pre-planned rally next Sunday will be held in Yuen Long, instead of in Central district.