Masked Thugs Attack Hong Kong Protest Organizer with Baseball Bat

Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) member Jimmy Sham (C) speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong on June 15, 2019 after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended a hugely divisive bill that would allow extraditions to China in a major climbdown after a week of unprecedented protests and …
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

A Hong Kong protest organizer accused masked men of attacking him and a friend Thursday with baseball bats shortly after police denied his group, the Civil Human Rights Front, a permit for this weekend’s planned protests.

Jimmy Sham, one of several Civil Human Rights Front leaders working to ensure the pro-democracy protests are legal, orderly, and safe, had received news of the government’s rejection of his request for a permit Thursday morning. Police claimed the prior protests had resulted in “serious injuries” and blamed the non-violent protest movement for citing riots against police.

Hong Kong officers confronted an otherwise peaceful protest last weekend with a water cannon, tear gas, pepper spray, and live gunfire, the first time police had shot at protesters. Law enforcement leaders claimed only one officer fired a “warning shot” necessary to save his life.

Local media in Hong Kong reported that Sham and a friend, who the South China Morning Post identified as Sham’s assistant Law Kwok-wai, citing a police source, were eating in a restaurant in the Jordan neighborhood of Hong Kong when two masked men, carrying knives and a baseball bat, attacked the pair. Sham told reporters he was not injured in the attack but that his friend, who he did not name, had suffered significant bruising and went to the hospital.

Police have not made any arrests connected to the attack at press time, nor have they identified any suspects.

Sham had made a public appearance earlier in the day following police rejecting his application for an assembly permit on behalf of the Civil Human Rights Front, telling reporters he was planning to appeal the decision as soon as possible and accusing Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam of “pushing Hong Kong into an abyss” by disregarding the protest movement’s demands and threatening new laws to curb citizens’ freedom of expression and assembly.

“This vile attack against Jimmy Sham appears to be a deliberate attempt to target a well-known pro-democracy activist. On top of terrifying physical threats Jimmy Sham also faced homophobic abuse,” Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said on Thursday shortly following the attack. “The Hong Kong police must launch a swift and proper investigation into these despicable events.”

Tam noted that Hong Kong had experienced “repeated harassment of pro-democracy activists” since the movement took off in early June and warned that the police and the thugs attacking Hong Kong protesters had “created a climate of fear for peaceful protesters.” Sham, Amnesty International added in its statement, had personally experienced angry pro-communist mobs rallying outside of his workplace shouting “homophobic insults” at him. Sham works at an LGBT organization.

Hong Kong protesters have convened peacefully – on multiple occasions in numbers above one million and in one case two million – for twelve weeks, primarily protest of a proposed law that would allow police to extradite individuals into Chinese prisons if accused of breaking Communist Party laws, which severely restrict basic political rights. The “One Country, Two Systems” policy that governs Hong Kong-China relations prevents the Communist Party from imposing its laws on the city.

The protesters have presented the government with five demands: a full withdrawal of the extradition bill, direct election of lawmakers, an investigation into police brutality, freedom for political prisoners, and a retraction of the government designation of the June 12 protest as a “riot.”

Lam, the chief executive, has rejected all the demands and threatened this week to impose new laws on the city to prevent protesters from legal assembly and empower police to attack them. Lam has referred to the protesters as rioters and is reportedly considering a “state of emergency” decree that would impose curfews and other restrictions to silence the protesters.

While police have taken radical and sometimes violent action against the protesters, they have done little against the masked thugs, like those attacking Sham, that have acted in alleged defense of China. In July, the first incident of violent, armed pro-China mobs targeting protesters occurred in the Yuen Long suburb of the Hong Kong region. A mob that protesters said numbered up to 100 people, armed with metal rods and bamboo sticks and wearing white to distinguish themselves from the protesters, began attacking anyone in the Yuen Long metro station wearing black, the color of the protests. Many surrounded protesters on rail platforms and began beating them.

Similar mobs have attacked elsewhere in the city since the first incident, facing few legal repercussions. Police, meanwhile, have expanded the use of force against protesters.

Police officials blamed the protesters for shutting down the assembly Sham applied for a permit to host.

“Protesters not only resort to violent acts, arson and road blockades, but also use petrol bombs, steel balls, bricks, lances, rods and other self-made weapons to vandalise public facilities on a large scale, committing a breach of the peace and leading to the injuries of others,” police said in their rejection of the application for a permit.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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