A knife-wielding thug speaking Mandarin, a language not common to southern China, slashed a group of protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday night and, when confronted by a local politician, bit his ear off.
As of Monday morning, doctors have successfully re-attached the piece of ear pro-democracy Tai Koo West district councillor Andrew Chiu lost as a result of the attack. Police have not named the attacker and there is no concrete evidence he will face criminal charges.
The incident occurred on week 22 of ceaseless protests against communist encroachment on Hong Kong’s legally capitalist government. Millions of people have taken the streets of the southern Chinese city since June, when pro-democracy groups began organizing protests against a proposed bill to allow the Chinese Communist Party to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong. The government has since fully withdrawn the bill, but the protesters have listed four other demands: an independent investigation into police brutality, freedom for political prisoners, an end to the government calling the protests “riots,” and direct election of lawmakers.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has refused to yield to, or even address, the other four demands.
Protesters had convened in front of the Cityplaza mall in Tai Koo on Sunday to protest peacefully, forming a human chain inside the man. In the evening, the unidentified man appeared, shouting aggressively at the crowd in Mandarin (most Hong Kongers speak Cantonese) and slashing at the protesters, trying to stab them. A woman on the scene said the man approached her brother-in-law and began arguing with him, then turning his rage to her and her family: “He hit my sister and I tried to stop him. He pulled my hair and punched me. I think he’s a mainlander because he spoke in mandarin. He said Hong Kong belongs to China.”
The man significantly injured several bystanders; according to local broadcaster RTHK, authorities said two men were in critical condition from deep stabbing wounds and three others hurt, two in serious condition. A total of 17 people received medical treatment at a local hospital following the incident.
“An RTHK journalist arrived on the scene to see a man slumped to the ground, bleeding profusely from what appeared to be a long knife wound to his back and shoulders,” the broadcaster noted. “Two other women were also sitting nearby, appearing to be dazed and in shock.”
Chiu attempted to apprehend the man to prevent him from hurting more people when, according to bystanders, the man bit down on Chiu’s ear and ripped a piece of it off.
[Warning: graphic violence]
Police arrested three people in connection with the incident, but it is not clear if the knife attacker was one of them. A crowd isolated the attack from Chiu after the vicious bite and attempted to subdue him until police tore them away.
Police had arrived prior to the attack to the mall to scold protesters who reportedly were using spray paint to write pro-democracy messages in the mall.
“Police warn the masked rioters to stop all destructive and illegal acts and appeal to the protestors to stay rational and calm,” police said in a statement.
Several Hong Kong outlets reported on Monday that doctors had successfully completed a surgery to reattach Chiu’s ear.
“Andrew Chiu’s ear has been attached back, and the hospital is observing his condition. He will remain in hospital, needs more rest, and won’t be accepting any visitors for the time being,” fellow official Lam Cheuk-ting reportedly told reporters.
The incident is the latest and perhaps goriest violent attack on pro-democracy protesters since June. Pro-communist violence began to occur regularly in July following the attack of a gang of an estimated 100 pro-China thugs on peaceful protesters attempting to get home in Yuen Long. The mob carried metal rods and bamboo sticks, surrounding anyone wearing black – the color of the protest movement – and beating them. Police later confirmed the thugs had ties to Hong Kong’s triads, or organized crime groups.
The typically white-clad mobs resurfaced on several occasions since. In September, a group appeared in North Point, a traditional pro-communist stronghold, chanting “beat the cockroaches” and attacking anyone wearing black. A month later, a group of thugs brandishing hammers severely beat protest leader Jimmy Sham of the Civil Human Rights Front, the group responsible for filing much of the legal paperwork for the protests to happen, leaving him bloodied on the ground. Thugs have also vandalized businesses that have publicly supported the protests.
China’s state media warned that Beijing is willing to eliminate protesters if they do not stop demanding their rights this weekend. The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, published an article threatening that protesters will “lose their future” if they continue to take the streets.
“There is no middle ground on the issue of fighting against riots and unrest in Hong Kong,” a Saturday commentary read. “No matter whether they have given silent approval out of sympathy or connived to give support, there will be only one end to those civil servants who join the ‘black terror’. They will lose their careers and future.”