Chinese state media published a graphic video on Monday showing a man doused in liquid and set on fire in Hong Kong, claiming — citing the Hong Kong police force — that protesters set him on fire for defending the Communist Party.
Reports have not identified the man or the attackers. Independent news outlets in Hong Kong — including broadcaster RTHK and the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) — have verified the video.
The incident reportedly took place on Monday in the Ma On Shan neighborhood of Hong Kong. A man appears visibly bleeding on a footbridge, indicating he had already engaged in some conflict, and yelling at someone offscreen. A woman tries to clean up some of the blood on his chest. As he approaches a man arguing, someone off camera splashes the man in a liquid and sets him on fire, causing a burst of flames.
[Warning: Graphic images]
According to RTHK, the victim is currently in the hospital in critical condition. The RTHK translation of the video indicates that the man was yelling at a crowd that “they are not Chinese, and that they are actually British.” The Asian outlet Coconuts added that some social media videos of the attack caught the off-camera attackers yelling “fuck your mom” and “go back,” presumably to China.
Protesters have caught Chinese citizens violently attacking them in an attempt to silence the protest movement on multiple occasions. Last month, police arrested Chinese citizen Liu Guosheng for stabbing a teen protester in the neck and abdomen. Last week, a Mandarin speaker (Hong Kong’s main language is Cantonese) bit off pro-democracy district councillor Andrew Chiu’s ear.
Other anti-Hong Kong violent criminals who some have suspected of having ties to Beijing include a man who brandished a razor while shirtless at teen protesters in September and many of the white-clad mobs that have attacked protesters since the movement began in June.
The police blamed “rioters,” the word typically used for the pro-democracy Hong Kong protest movement, for setting the man on fire on Monday.
“In the most shocking incident, some rioters poured flammable liquid onto a person and set him on fire,” police spokesman John Tse told reporters on Monday, according to the HKFP. The man had reportedly “chased the rioters” before “he was beaten up and set on fire.”
The Chinese communist propaganda outlet Global Times claimed that, contra reports that he was yelling at the protesters they were not Chinese, he “chanted, ‘we are all Chinese’ [when] a black-clad rioter poured an inflammable substance on the victim and lit him as he expressed different views.”
Monday was a particularly violent day for Hong Kong. In addition to the fire attack, police reportedly opened fire on unarmed protesters, critically injuring at least one person, a 21-year-old identified as “Chow,” and hitting another. The unnamed victim reportedly suffered significant damage in his liver and kidney after being shot at close range. Chow is reportedly recovering from surgery and is expected to live.
The Global Times claimed the shootings were necessary because protesters are “rampaging to destroy the city.”
“Police dismissed online rumors that police management had ordered frontline officers to recklessly use their firearms in today’s operations. Police clarifies that this allegation is totally false and malicious,” the Beijing mouthpiece claimed. “Police has strict guidelines and orders regarding the use of firearms.”
The Global Times referred to Chow as a “rioter.”
There is no evidence that Chow was a protester.
“From what I understand, Chow was just walking past [the venue] with other classmates. If he can be charged with unlawful assembly just because he was passing by, I think this is too serious and unscrupulous,” attorney and former lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo told the South China Morning Post. He was reportedly walking to visit a “Lennon wall” — a mural of sticky notes that has become an icon of the protests — suggesting he was sympathetic to them.
Millions of Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets continuously since June, first in response to a proposed law allowing the Chinese Communist Party to extradite anyone in the city, and later generally demanding China stop illegally infringing on the governance of the city. The policy the governs Hong Kong, “One Country, Two Systems,” prevents China from imposing communism on Hong Kong.
The protest movement is demanding the direct election of lawmakers, freedom for political prisoners, an independent investigation into police brutality, and an end to referring to the protests as “riots.” The protesters also demanded the Hong Kong government fully withdraw the extradition bill, which it has done.
The current escalation on the streets of Hong Kong followed the mysterious death of 22-year-old Alex Chow, who reportedly fell from the third to the second floor of a car garage last week. Some reports suggest that Chow ran into the car garage to avoid the rampant use of police tear gas, but police have offered no clarifying evidence on what happened to the student. Many protesters believe police brutality killed him, even though there is no evidence he was protesting at the time of his death.