July 21 (UPI) — At least 36 people were injured Sunday as pro-democracy protesters, journalists and bystanders were attacked by a mob of weapon-wielding masked assailants in white T-shirts following the latest anti-extradition bill demonstration in Hong Kong.
Wielding bamboo sticks and other weapons, the mob stormed the Yuen Long MTR station at midnight and attacked people who attempted to protect themselves with umbrellas as others fought back with no police in sight, South China Morning Post reported.
By the time riot police arrived, local residents were furious, accusing them of allowing the violence to occur.
By 2:30 a.m. on Monday, at least 36 people had been admitted to local hospitals, the Hospital Authority said.
Several journalists and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting were injured in the attack, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.
The government issued a statement condemning the violence.
“In Yuen Long, some people congregated at the MTR station platforms and the train compartments where they attacked commuters,” the Hong Kong government said. “This led to confrontations and injuries.”
However, the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the day’s protest, rejected the condemnation, blaming the police for the violence as they were instead firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters occupying a road in Sheung Wan.
“Real thugs have attacked passersby, a journalist and a lawmaker, badly injuring them, but the police have failed to enforce the law,” they said in a statement. “This has angered us greatly.”
Police said via Twitter that at 10 p.m. it fired tear gas at protesters who were occupying Connaught Road when they failed to vacate the area despite police warnings.
The group also admonished the government for grouping in its statement the mob with pro-democracy protesters who earlier in the day defaced the China Liaison Office in Sai Wan with eggs and ink, calling the move “ridiculous.”
Three media associations condemned the violence committed against journalists while urging the police to protect them and Hong Kong citizens.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and the Independent Commentators Association said in a statement that two reporters were attacked with wooden rods, both of whom were beaten to the group.
Another journalist had his TV camera taken from him by a member of the white T-shirted mob and destroyed, they said.
“We strongly condemn such violent acts and demand the police to arrest the assaulters still at large,” they said. “We are also urgently appealing to the police to perform their duty and protect the people and journalists.”
The violence followed tens of thousands of demonstrators rallying earlier in the day for a suspended extradition bill to be officially withdrawn, Hong Kong Executive Chief Carrie Lam to resign, a retraction of labeling a previous protest a “riot” and an independent investigation into police conduct.
The protests came after tens of thousands of pro-police demonstrators gathered in Tamar Park to “safeguard Hong Kong” from anti-extradition protesters.
Hong Kong police on Friday announced they had made the “largest seizure of explosives” and arrested a 27-year-old man on suspicion of possessing explosives and weapons in connection with a raid on a homemade laboratory ahead of the weekend of protests.
The demonstrations began in early June as protests against an extradition bill that people feared would allow citizens to be tried in mainland China but was eventually declared “dead” by Lam. The focus then broadened to calls for more democratic reforms of Hong Kong as well as the investigation into police actions.