An angry mob carrying bamboo sticks and metal rods returned to the scene of the Hong Kong protests Monday night for the first time in weeks, openly attacking protesters in plain sight of police and journalists and, unlike their last attack, not bothering to wear masks.
The mob attack was the second such incident and the first since a group of armed thugs beat political dissidents on their way home from a peaceful protest two weeks ago in Yuen Long, a suburban neighborhood north of the center of Hong Kong city.
Monday’s attack occurred in North Point, a neighborhood on Hong Kong island. While many in the mob wore white, as they did during the Yuen Long attack, many chose to simply wear plain clothes of other colors. The Hong Kong protest movement has adopted black as its color, so the mob attacked anyone it found dressed in black.
In addition to the stick beatings, at least one man was stabbed by a knife-wielding thug for wearing black. Reports have not confirmed if the victim was indeed a protester or merely someone found wearing black in public.
Monday was one of the most active days of protests in Hong Kong since the movement erupted in June, the product of protesters calling for a nationwide strike to paralyze the city. An estimated half a million people heeded the call not to go to work on Monday, grounding half the flights out of Hong Kong airport and grinding the Mass Transit Rail (MTR) system to a halt.
Protesters moved into North Point on Monday evening, greeted around 8 p.m. by the stick-wielding pro-China mob, according to the outlet Quartz, which describes North Point as “a neighborhood with older, staunchly pro-Beijing residents.” The mob began to beat the crowd of protesters with sticks upon encountering them, targeting people dressed in black. Unlike the Yuen Long attack, which occurred after protests had ended without incident in an MTR station, protesters attempted to fight back, pelting the mob with whatever they could find.
For most of the fight, a police barricade separated the protesters from the violent mob.
— Michael Zhang 張雨軒 (@YuxuanMichael) August 5, 2019
A group of men attacked protesters in North Point, leading to a street brawl. In other districts across #HongKong, rallies turned into clashes with police firing multiple rounds of tear gas. https://t.co/IIXRcLmEUo pic.twitter.com/TGCTYOgPiw
— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) August 5, 2019
Quartz noted that a second mob of people wearing blue shirts reading “I love Hong Kong” attacked protesters in the Hong Kong suburb of Tseun Wan on Monday. A related mob of people wearing white also attacked in Tseun Wan, stabbing at least one male protester with a knife, according to the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP). Protesters surrounded the victim and helped carry him out of the area and to receive medical care.
Reports circulating in Hong Kong traced the “I love Hong Kong” shirts back to Guangzhou, China, according to the Epoch Times.
According to one of the dissident leaders, which the HKFP identified as Figo Chan, the Tseun Wan mob numbered at between 30 and 40 people. Many had knives, he alleged, making it difficult for protesters to protect journalists present to cover the rally.
“Chan said a group of protesters tried to help journalists escape but backed away after discovering the attackers had knives. The protesters returned to find a young man who had reportedly been beaten up and cut three times on his head, arm and leg,” HKFP reported.
“We were, of course, afraid [of the men in white]. But it was important to rescue people – how can we count on the police to do it? He would be dead if we had relied on them,” Chan reportedly wrote on Facebook.
Police confirmed over 80 arrests on Monday, none identified as members of pro-China mobs.
The mob beatings this week resemble those in Yuen Long in July, differing in that the attackers this week targeted active protests. In Yuen Long, the mob waiting for the protest to end and cornered anyone wearing white making their way to the Yuen Long MTR station on the way home. Police took as long as 40 minutes to respond to reports of beatings, allowing thugs to surround protesters, cornering them on MTR trains and causing significant damage. Video surfaced after the attack of police standing around chatting amicably with some of the attackers, who wore surgical masks to cover their faces. Also present was pro-China lawmaker Junius Ho, who later refused to apologize for shaking hands with the assailants.
Authorities told reporters that 45 people were hospitalized in the Yuen Long attack. Police have arrested 23 people out of a mob that witnesses say numbered over 100. Police confirmed protesters’ claims that members of the mob had ties to Hong Kong’s triads, or organized crime syndicates.
No reports have indicated at press time that the mobs in North Point and Tseun Wan had ties to triads.
On Tuesday, masked protesters held a press conference to reiterate why the protests continue and to urge police to stop attacking protesters and siding with violent pro-China mobs. The protest movement has adamantly rejected appointing leaders, who they see as potential targets for Beijing, hence the anonymity of the spokespeople.
“[We] strongly urge both the police force and the government to stop being the enemy of the people,” one of the protesters told reporters. “Instead of staying out of the limelight behind [the police], the current principal officers should be held accountable for the public outcry.”
One of the protesters said that the movement’s plan for a potential People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invasion against them is to “be water,” a slogan the protesters use for not amassing in easily targetable large groups, and “go home to sleep.”
Hong Kong’s protest movement began in June in response to lawmakers proposing a bill that would allow China to extradite anyone in Hong Kong for alleged violations of Chinese law, essentially making Communist Party laws viable in Hong Kong. The “One Country, Two Systems” policy bans China from imposing its laws on capitalist Hong Kong. Protesters are asking for a full withdrawal of the extradition bill, freedom for political prisoners, full direct elections of lawmakers, an apology from the government for referring to the peaceful June 12 protest as a “riot,” and an independent inquiry on police brutality.