A pro-communist group organized by Chinese officials will award a taxi driver HK$520,000 ($66,297.40) after ramming his car into a crowd of pro-democracy protesters, the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported on Thursday.
The man seriously injured an unnamed 23-year-old woman, shattering her thigh bones; reports indicate she is not guaranteed to be able to walk again.
Following his attack, which some in the Hong Kong freedom movement have called an act of terrorism, protesters surrounded the taxi driver and attacked him, vandalizing his car. The man, identified as Harry Cheng, is still in the hospital from the injuries he sustained following his decision to plow into a crowded pedestrian walkway to attack unarmed protesters.
Hong Kong police documented the event as an act of “rioting” on behalf of the protesters and have dismissed accusations that he deliberately drove his car into the crowd. Cheng told police that he was driving when, suddenly, someone grabbed his steering wheel from the outside to drive the car into the protesters. He is not facing any criminal charges.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong accused the police of covering up the incident, noting, “they [car rammings] have been considered terrorist attack[s] anywhere else.” Car rammings have become an increasingly popular form of mass murder among Islamic State jihadists in the West.
2/ They have been considered terrorist attack elsewhere but police are covering up. HKPolice have completely lost their credibility. They constantly discredit demonstrators as thugs, ignoring the illegal behavior of the taxi driver & terrorists who supporting police & Beijing.
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒😷 (@joshuawongcf) October 7, 2019
The HKFP identified “Safeguard HK,” a group whose members are involved in Hong Kong politics and have ties to the Communist Party, as being responsible for bringing Cheng the reward on Tuesday. The report named “Kennedy Wong, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Stanley Ng, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress,” as the two members of the group who met Cheng in the hospital to tell him he would receive money, presumably for his medical fees following the attack.
The National People’s Congress is Beijing’s puppet legislature in Beijing.
“Safeguard HK” was formed as a rallying group to respond to the Hong Kong freedom movement following widespread protests in the city that began in June. The protests were triggered by the Hong Kong Legislative Council mulling a law that would have allowed China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong if it accused them of violating Communist Party laws. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has since claimed that she would pressure the council to fully withdraw the bill, but they have not made any moves to ensure that it would not become law yet.
The protesters are also demanding an independent investigation into police brutality, direct election of lawmakers, freedom for political prisoners and an end to the government calling peaceful protests “riots.”
“Safeguard FK” has organized in support of the Chinese Communist Party and claimed it has a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures of Hong Kong residents supporting China.
Cheng’s was the second such incident of a driver plowing into protesters. In August, another vehicle was caught on camera doing the same thing, resulting in similar condemnation from the crowd. The driver in that incident has not been identified and no one was seriously injured, as the protesters managed to run away. Protesters sprayed the side of the car with the word “murderer” in Chinese text.
Cheng, the driver of the weaponized taxi this weekend, is the second Hong Kong protester antagonist to receive a windfall from powers affiliated with Beijing. Fu Guohao, a propagandist for the Chinese government newspaper Global Times, received a $14,000 reward in September after behaving belligerently towards protesters at Hong Kong International Airport.
Protesters accurately identified Fu as a government agent and apprehended him. Fu demanded to be allowed to show his credentials as a journalist, which he finally did — along with an “I love HK police” t-shirt hiding in his bag.
“Fu Guohao and our other colleagues who have shown outstanding performance in the reporting of Hong Kong [protests] have been awarded. Fu has received the highest award of 100,000 yuan,” Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin said at the time.
The protests in Hong Kong have continued into Thursday. Protesters have used two separate occasions commemorated today — Taiwan’s National Day and “World Vision Day” — to condemn police. For the former, protesters in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood took the streets waving Taiwanese flags and signs in support of President Tsai Ing-wen, who has expressed support for the protests and condemned the Communist Party for attempting to impose the Hong Kong system on Taiwan.
Taiwan is a fully functional, wealthy, and democratic sovereign state. China considers it a rogue province and has bullied most of the world’s nations out of diplomatic ties with Taipei. Last week, dictator Xi Jinping called for imposing “One Country, Two Systems” — the current Hong Kong policy, on Taiwan.
For World Vision Day, the protesters are condemning police for using bean bag rounds to blind protesters. The protest movement has taken up the gesture of covering up one eye as a statement against the police since officers blinded an unarmed young woman with a short-range bean bag blast to her face, shattering her eye socket.
HKFP_Live: Protesters chant outside Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station for victims shot by projectiles in the eye — on World Vision Day —despite riot police presence on Thursday evening: https://t.co/zgWh5oGvtu#hongkong #hongkongprotests #AntiELAB pic.twitter.com/Y2vVGNDpqi
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) October 10, 2019
Police have reportedly began to implement stop and frisk procedures on protesters as of Thursday evening Hong Kong local time, outraging the crowd.