A driver believed to be injured and refusing help from the crowd rammed through an improvised blockade in Yuen Long, Hong Kong, on Monday, hitting protesters standing on the other side.
The incident occurred during one of at least eight official protests organized against the Communist Party of China on Monday and a call for a general strike that left mass transit systems and the Hong Kong airport largely inoperable.
The protesters have presented a list of five demands to the Hong Kong government intended to safeguard the longstanding democratic tradition of the region, among them a call for universal suffrage. Currently, a direct vote only covers half the seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo), leaving the other half to regional special interests.
Video of the car ramming circulated through the encrypted app Telegram before surfacing on Twitter and, eventually, in news outlets.
The Asian outlet Coconuts reported that the car in question, apparently a minivan model, boasted spray paint on its side reading “murderer” in Chinese. It is not clear at press time how the man’s car came to have that graffiti on it, though protesters on the scene indicated through Telegram that the man had an “altercation” with the protesters before driving into them. The nature of that alleged altercation also remains uncertain.
The Guardian reported that, according to individuals present, the driver was injured and refused help from the protesters, who offered to call medical services for him. Police confirmed only one person injured from the incident but did verify that video of the incident aligned with the reports they received.
“That [incident] happened around 10:30 today. We got a call that some people were run over by a car near Yoho mall in Yuen Long, but once police arrived there were no injured, no car and no witnesses to tell us anything,” an unnamed police spokesperson reportedly told the newspaper.
The Guardian added that another similar incident – allegedly on Harcourt Road in Admiralty, where the LegCo headquarters are located – was reported of a car ramming through a protester barricade, though video of that incident or details have not yet surfaced.
Last week, protesters urged commuters using the city’s Mass Transit Rail (MTR) system to join them for a general strike and take the day off on Monday. The protesters disrupted the system but apologized to commuters as they stood in between train doors, holding them up.
We’re very sorry for keeping you from getting to work, we simply don’t have many options,” a flyer the protesters distributed read. “We invite you to take a day off.”
The strike occurred on Monday, reportedly attracting as many as half a million people. Many who took the day off work in the MTR or at Hong Kong airport, grounding about half the flights meant to leave and shutting down at least 7 MTR lines, according to the South China Morning Post. Some protesters built barricades on some of the largest roads in the city to bring car traffic to a standstill, as well.
Police responded to the protests, which they deemed illegal, by attacking protesters with tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets. The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported that at least seven of Hong Kong’s districts experienced heavy tear gas police attacks. As Monday came to a close in North Point, northeastern Hong Kong island, a mob of thugs dressed in white appeared, beating protesters with sticks.
The incident was the second of its kind. The first one occurred in late July, when a mob of an estimated 100-150 people, dressed in white and wearing surgical masks, appeared in Yuen Long carrying metal bars and bamboo sticks. After a well-attended and peaceful protest in the suburb concluded, the mob surrounded protesters on their way to the MTR platform to go home, beating them severely. The mob cornered some suspected protesters in MTR train cars and others in the mall attached to the platform. Some of the victims claimed they were not protesters and did not attend the Yuen Long rally, but were wearing black at the time and, thus, mistaken for protesters.
Police confirmed protesters’ accusations that the thugs had ties to triads, Hong Kong’s notorious organized crime groups.
Protesters began to take the streets in June demanding LegCo withdraw a proposed law that would have allowed the Communist Party of China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong if they so wished, a violation of the One Country, Two Systems policy that guarantees Hong Kong need not abide by draconian Chinese law. Legislators tabled the bill, which allows them to revive it at any time.
In addition to a full withdrawal of the bill, protesters are demanding freedom for political prisoners, universal election of LegCo members, an independent investigation of police brutality against protesters, and a government statement declaring it was incorrect for them to label the June 12 protest a “riot.”