Hong Kong is still reeling from a horrific attack that apparently targeted pro-democracy demonstrators.
On Sunday night, a group of men donning white T-shirts entered a city subway station and began beating people with wooden sticks and metal pipes. The attack, which occurred amid on-going protests against mainland China, were captured on video by a number of victims, including Hong Kong-based journalists Gwyneth Ho.
"My hands were injured with minor injuries," Ho wrote on Facebook. "[My] right shoulder needs to be stitched with four stitches [...] head is swollen. I feel dizzy."
Pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting also shared footage of the attack that was captured on one of the subways.
Cheuk-ting told the New York Times the attack left him with a number of injuries, one of which required 18 stitches on his mouth. The lawmaker, like many other Hong Kong residents, said he is convinced the attack was carried out by pro-Chinese government gang members who were trying to intimidate activists.
"I have strong reason to believe they were gangsters," Cheuk-ting said. "I don’t think any ordinary citizens have done such sophisticated, organized attacks on this kind of level."
Additional videos of the attack has surfaced on social media under the hashtag #PrayforHongKong.
What led up to the attacks?
Over the past month, Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets to protest a extradition bill that was proposed following the 2018 death of Poon Hiu-wing—a Hong Kong woman who was murdered by her boyfriend during a trip to Taiwan. About a month after he had returned to Hong Kong, the boyfriend admitted to killing Hiu-wing; however, the city could not charge the man with murder because he had committed the crime in Taiwan, and the government lacked an extradition deal with the country. So, in 2019, Hong Kong officials drafted a bill that would allow suspected criminals to be transported to Taiwan to face charges. But that same bill would also allow extradition to mainland China, which has been widely criticized for its criminal justice system.
It's important to note that Hong Kong is technically part of China, but operates a "one country, two system" structure that was intended to continue until 2047. This structure was established in 1997, when Britain, which had controlled Hong Kong for about a century, gave it back to China on the condition that it would remain a semi-autonomous region for the next 50 years. But many activists and political leaders have accused China of attempting to prematurely take control—and the extradition bill would likely advance their ultimate goal.
Per the Times:
Many in Hong Kong fear that the proposed extradition law would allow mainland authorities to directly demand the handover of people wanted in political cases, despite promised human rights safeguards.
The proposed bill has since been suspended, but protestors are now calling for political reform.
Who were the men behind the attack?
At this time, no one knows who organized the attack; but, as previously mentioned, many suspect they were members of powerful crime organizations that have a history of targeting anti-Chinese government protestors. But this time around they appeared to be targeting anyone who was in their path.
"They repeatedly went into the train and were using batons to indiscriminately attack all the people in the train," Cheuk-ting said. "Many journalists, even a pregnant woman, all ordinary citizens of Hong Kong, were attacked by those gangsters."
Several Hong Kong outlets have shared video of pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho shaking hands with the men in white T-shirts, which fueled speculation that the attack was used to combat the demonstrations.
Ho denied any connections to the mob, and said he condemned the acts of violence.