A group of demonstrators blocked a train station for about 15 minutes during rush hour on Wednesday morning to call attention to Sunday’s savage beating of activists and bystanders by a gang of thugs.
The demonstrators accused Hong Kong police and railway authorities of tolerating, or even enabling, the attack.
The demonstrators, many wearing masks and the yellow construction helmets that have become a symbol of the protest movement, chanted “Hong Kong police break the law knowingly!” and blocked the entrance to an important commuter train.
Protest organizers used social media over the past few days to encourage civil disobedience at Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations. “Hold the MTR accountable, blatant disregard for human lives. Start the class boycott, general strike, everyone contribute in their own way,” read one such message.
MTR staff insisted there was no deliberate policy to make Sunday’s mob attack possible, contrary to accusations the train was held in place and doors locked open to give the assailants access to their victims. The MTR said the train was kept in the station for safety reasons, the doors to the train were blocked from closing, and another train was sent to evacuate people from the station as quickly as possible.
Another charge leveled by protesters is that a Railway Response Team (RRT), highly touted by Hong Kong police when it was formed last year amid concerns about crime and terrorism on the city’s vital mass transit system, was not dispatched to break up the Sunday attack. Police officials claim the RRT was busy dealing with security for the huge protest march held shortly before the railway attack occurred.
A march against the mob attack is planned for Saturday. The march is scheduled to end with a rally at the MTR station where the attack occurred.
“Hong Kong people must act to respond to the July 21 terrorist attack at the Yuen Long MTR station,” said march organizer Max Chung.
“The government must respond as to whether the July 21 terrorist attack was a cross-border terrorist attack, and whether it will form an independent investigation commission to find out the truth,” he said.
The South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday that five victims of the Sunday attack are still in the hospital, with one of them in critical condition.
A victim named Calvin So, 23, recalled being attacked by twenty men with cudgels when he tried to catch a train home after working as a chef at the shopping mall near the station. So said he was targeted merely for observing “there are lots of people in white clothes here,” and ended up with livid red scars across his back that will last for weeks after five minutes of getting thrashed with bamboo poles.
The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) on Tuesday condemned the “sickening scenes of mob violence” at the Yuen Long train station, noting that at least four journalists were attacked.
“We are out here standing for press freedom and to say yes to press freedom, no to violence against journalists. We are renewing our call for an independent investigation by a third party, into any harassment or violence against journalists during the protests in Hong Kong,” FCC president Jodi Schneider said.
As if club-wielding triad gangsters weren’t bad enough, Hong Kong protest organizers were swamped by hundreds of Internet trolls from mainland China on Monday night.
The troll squad posted Chinese nationalist slogans, condemnations of the protesters, support for the Hong Kong police, and a few ominous threats of possible military action on the web sites of the Civil Human Rights Front activist group and the Hong Kong National Front political party, as reported by Quartz:
The organizer of the attack, Di Ba, announced (in Chinese) on social media platform Weibo that the aim of the campaign is to “support Hong Kong police and condemn some of the Hong Kong rioters for insulting the Chinese emblem.”
“One China is our common wish, and ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is our clear goal. Innocent Hong Kongers, don’t be influenced by some Hong Kong trash,” wrote Facebook user Mu Rongxin, whose comment was liked over 1,000 times.
“We hereby persuade some of the violent protestors to pull back before it’s too late, the strong Chinese government and its people will firmly support the passage of the extradition bill,” wrote another user going by Ran Ran. Both users were commenting on the Facebook page of Civil Human Rights Front.
Quartz noted the trolls parroted Chinese government propaganda about sinister foreign influences (i.e. the United States) manipulating the Hong Kong protest movement and the movement hiding a secessionist agenda.
The Associated Press on Wednesday looked at the six men currently in custody for the train station attack, some of them with links to triad crime syndicates, and concluded the triads were employed by parties unknown to hire local muscle. City University of Hong Kong gang expert T. Wing Lo estimated the triads were probably paid about $1.28 million for their services and would have shelled out $250 a head to hire thugs from rural areas to carry out the beatings.
“The Hong Kong triad only works for money, not for political ideology. They will work for anyone,” Lo noted.