HONG KONG — A brazen in a single day assault by a mob of males with sticks and steel bars who have been apparently concentrating on antigovernment protesters raised tensions in Hong Kong to new ranges on Monday after weeks of demonstrations, prompting fears of violence spiraling past the authorities’ management.
Dozens of individuals, together with journalists and a pro-democracy lawmaker, have been injured within the assault in and round a practice station in Yuen Lengthy, a satellite tv for pc city in northwestern Hong Kong close to the border with mainland China.
The violence adopted clashes earlier within the night between the police and protesters close to the Chinese language authorities’s liaison workplace in Hong Kong, and raised questions on why officers didn’t shield demonstrators, who’ve been important of the police’s use of drive in current weeks.
Protesters painted graffiti on the Chinese language authorities’s liaison workplace in Hong Kong on Sunday, and threw ink on the crest of the Chinese language state displayed there, an act that Chinese language officers mentioned “brazenly challenged the authority of the central authorities.” Earlier, demonstrators participated in a peaceable march calling for an impartial investigation into accusations of police brutality.
On Monday, Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief government, mentioned she condemned each the vandalizing of the liaison workplace, which she mentioned challenged China’s sovereignty and “harm the nation’s emotions,” and the mob assaults in Yuen Lengthy.
“Violence will solely result in extra violence,” she mentioned at a information convention.
With the assaults in Yuen Lengthy, the protests have entered a stage that many Hong Kong activists worry from previous expertise: using thugs to intimidate demonstrators. The injured mentioned they believed the attackers have been members of organized crime societies often known as triads, and so they have complained that the violence was inspired by authorities supporters and ignored by the police.
“I’ve sturdy purpose to consider they have been gangsters,” mentioned Lam Cheuk-ting, a pro-democracy lawmaker who was hit on his arms, fingers and face, leaving his mouth with a reduce that required 18 stitches to shut. “I don’t assume any abnormal residents have accomplished such refined, organized assaults on this sort of stage.”
Mr. Lam mentioned he realized that somebody was being assaulted within the station round 9 p.m., and he warned the police in Yuen Lengthy. He then went there by practice, the place he mentioned thugs carrying batons and carrying white shirts have been operating rampant.
“They repeatedly went into the practice and have been utilizing batons to indiscriminately assault all of the folks within the practice,” he mentioned. “Many journalists, even a pregnant lady, all abnormal residents of Hong Kong, have been attacked by these gangsters.”
The protests in Hong Kong started weeks in the past over a proposal that might permit extraditions to mainland China, however have unfold to embody calls for for direct elections for town’s chief and complaints about using drive by police towards demonstrators.
Mr. Lam condemned the police response to the mob assault as woefully insufficient, saying that the group was seen gathering as early as 6 p.m.
Yau Nai-keung, an assistant district police commander in Yuen Lengthy, mentioned officers made no arrests and located no weapons.
However in a single encounter captured by photojournalists, the riot police spoke with two masked males in white shirts holding steel bars or sticks, patting one on the shoulder earlier than strolling off.
“It’s unbelievable,” mentioned Mr. Lam, the lawmaker. “The conduct of the police drive is basically disgusting and shameless.”
Stephen Lo, the Hong Kong police commissioner, urged that the protests contributed to the sluggish police response to the violence on the practice station.
“Our manpower is stretched as a result of each time when there’s a main occasion which can result in violent confrontations we now have to deploy some manpower from varied districts to Hong Kong Island,” he mentioned.
Gwyneth Ho, a journalist for the Hong Kong-based on-line outlet Stand Information, continued dwell streaming the violence even after she was attacked. Ms. Ho wrote on Fb that she was bleeding from her head, had bruises on her again and wanted 4 stitches on her proper shoulder.
Galileo Cheng, social affairs government for the Hong Kong Catholic Establishment Workers Affiliation, mentioned he took a practice to Yuen Lengthy after attending protests earlier within the day. He additionally dwell streamed the violence, however his feed went darkish after he too was attacked. His higher lip, elbow and fingers have been injured, and a helmet he was carrying was cracked.
“These thugs stored assaulting me and even assaulted a girl with an toddler at her waist,” he mentioned.
The Hospital Authority of Hong Kong mentioned 45 folks have been injured in Yuen Lengthy, and one was in severe situation. One other 14 folks sought therapy after clashes between the police and protesters close to the Chinese language liaison workplace on Hong Kong Island, about an hour south by practice.
Locals have been angered by what gave the impression to be police complacency, saying the authorities didn’t reply their telephone calls or register their complaints on the station on Sunday. Terry Lin, a 32-year-old designer, mentioned that he was one of many first folks to hurry to the native police station after seeing the lads in white method the practice station with sticks, however the police finally closed the steel gates to a rising crowd of residents after registering just a few complaints, citing safety considerations.
Professional-democracy and institution events condemned the violence, however some authorities supporters have been accused of taking part in down and even endorsing the assaults on the protesters. A professional-establishment legislator, Junius Ho, was seen in a video circulating late Sunday with a gaggle of males in Yuen Lengthy carrying Hong Kong flags and wearing white shirts, the uniform of the attackers.
“Thanks in your efforts,” he mentioned. “You guys are my heroes.”
Mr. Ho denied any reference to the assaults and mentioned he was merely speaking with individuals who got here as much as him as he was strolling previous them.
On Saturday, pro-government demonstrators gathered close to the federal government headquarters to specific their help for the police. One speaker, Arthur Shek, a founding father of The Hong Kong Financial Instances, informed attendees to make use of canes or PVC pipes to reply to protesters.
“What can we use them for? To show our sons,” he mentioned. “So bear in mind one factor: We don’t want drive, we’d like self-discipline. You employ a cane to show your son — how will you name this violent?”
Hong Kong has a protracted historical past of thugs and gang members intimidating protesters. Through the pro-democracy Umbrella Motion in 2014, a gaggle of males together with some triad members and other people apparently from mainland China attacked a protest camp that was occupying a roadway within the Mong Kok district. And in 1989, after troopers crushed pro-democracy protests in Beijing and different Chinese language cities, a Hong Kong occasion to mourn the lifeless was canceled after a confrontation between cops and males believed to have come from the mainland.
After Mrs. Lam’s feedback on Monday, one outstanding former lawmaker from a historically pro-establishment social gathering referred to as on her to resign. “Are triads ruling Hong Kong now?” the previous lawmaker, James Tien, wrote on Fb.
“I’ve by no means requested you to resign earlier than, however after what occurred in Yuen Lengthy final night time, for those who nonetheless don’t resign, Hong Kong won’t ever see peace once more!” he added.
At the same time as Hong Kong officers promised to aggressively pursue the attackers on the practice station and tried to discourage reprisals, fears of renewed violence unfold on Monday. Native information retailers reported that some residents have been informed to not go to the middle of Yuen Lengthy city within the afternoon and night.
Some companies within the space closed early, and HSBC, the biggest financial institution in Hong Kong, informed staff they might depart work early due to the opportunity of “disruptions” in Yuen Lengthy and the close by city of Tuen Mun.