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Tags: Hong Kong | protesters | students | attack

Mob Attacks Hong Kong Protesters as Students Shelve Talks

Friday, 03 October 2014 06:19 PM EDT

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked by hundreds of men at two sites in the city, prompting student leaders to shelve talks with the government aimed at ending weeklong street protests still engulfing the city.

The city’s embattled leader, Leung Chun-ying, appealed for calm last night after the mobs, which began gathering in the afternoon, tried to remove barricades, shouted abuse and tussled with students. Student federation leaders in a Facebook posting accused the government of betraying their trust by allowing organized violence to be directed at them.

With dialog on hold, prospects receded for a negotiated solution to the biggest crisis Hong Kong and its Communist Party overlords have faced since the British handed back sovereignty in 1997.

Talks were agreed upon by both sides late on Oct. 2 as a step to resolve demonstrations that have paralyzed much of central Hong Kong, closing schools, offices, and affecting sales at retailers including Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd. The Hong Kong benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 2.6 percent in the week, its steepest drop since March.

The biggest social upheaval in the city for almost half a century was sparked after protesters began gathering Sept. 26 to demand a greater choice of candidates in the 2017 leadership contest, and the resignation of Leung.

19 Arrests

Police arrested 19 people following clashes in the Mong Kok district north of the harbor, including eight suspected of having triad gang backgrounds, Senior Superintendent Kwok Pak- chung said at a press conference today. At least 37 people were injured yesterday in the violence, taking the number of injured throughout the protests to 131, health officials said.

Numbers of pro-democracy supporters swelled again overnight, escalating tensions as police carrying riot shields took to the streets at one stage. Police had to take the city’s subway to reach the Mong Kok fighting, Kwok said. He asked that protesters move to the main protest site near government offices in Admiralty, which escaped the clashes.

Leung last night repeated his call for students to leave the streets and said he had told police to maintain law and order. Hong Kong police rejected allegations that they were being soft on criminal gangs targeting students.

‘Triads and Thugs’

“The government and police have allowed triads and thugs to use violence to attack peaceful protesters, cutting off the road to any conversation, and should be responsible for any fallout that results,” the Hong Kong Federation of Students said in the posting on its Facebook page titled “Road to Dialogue Must be Shelved.”

Women and girls were targeted in the attacks against the protesters, according to a statement from rights group Amnesty International, which cited incidents of sexual assault, harassment and intimidation in front of watching police.

Police have always worked to crack down on activities by the city’s triad gangs, Hong Kong police spokesman Kong Man-keung said at a separate briefing yesterday night, rejecting any suggestions that the police were working with criminals.

People opposed to the sit-ins first confronted protesters in Causeway Bay, a popular shopping district, and later in Mong Kok, a working-class vice-ridden area across the harbor in Kowloon that bustles with nightlife and food stalls.

Students Taunted

Crowds of men attempted to cross a thin line of police officers in Mong Kok to get at student protesters, who are mainly dressed in black tee shirts with yellow ribbons pinned on sleeves. The men, many of whom refused to speak with reporters, taunted the students and challenged them to fights.

“If I see those people wearing yellow ribbons, I will crush them,” said a man who would only give his surname, Lee, and who was among the men in Mong Kok shouting at the students to leave. “Everyone is affected by this inconvenience. Our police are too tolerant.”

Police with riot shields appeared on the streets this morning as crowds swelled, heightening tension on Mong Kok’s streets. The conflicts haven’t spread to centrally-located Admiralty, the demonstrators’ stronghold where thousands were still on Harcourt Road at 2 a.m., standing under umbrellas that have become a symbol of the movement since they were used to protect against pepper spray used against them from police last weekend.

Heavy Rain

“We can’t give in now,” Candy Chan, 19, a second-year university biology student, said amid rain and thunder. “If I leave at the first sign of intimidation then what does that say about our resolve for democracy?”

The disruptions caused by the protests alienated some citizens.

“I supported the students’ ideology in this movement but I don’t like their threatening tactics,” said Choi Hao Tze, a taxi driver. “The students seem to be too demanding.”

The protests students started Sept. 26 were triggered by China’s decision that candidates for chief executive in the 2017 elections be vetted by a committee, which pro-democracy groups say will give China control over whose names make the ballot. Crowds swelled after police dragged off students who tried to storm the main square of government headquarters on Sept. 26 and then used tear gas two days later in a bid to disperse the spreading demonstrations.

“I am indeed very concerned about the clashes we have seen in Mong Kok,” Carrie Lam, the city’s second-highest ranking official, told reporters yesterday. “These protests on the streets have great vulnerability to turn into critical violence between the protesters and the anti-protesters.”

Lam was appointed by Leung to open talks with students.

Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy Labour Party lawmaker, said he still hoped the students would meet Lam.

“Their positions are so far apart, that there really does not seem to be much middle ground,” Lee said. “But it’s good to talk, because dialogues defuse tension.”

© Copyright 2023 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked by hundreds of men at two sites in the city, prompting student leaders to shelve talks with the government aimed at ending weeklong street protests still engulfing the city.The city's embattled leader, Leung Chun-ying,...
Hong Kong, protesters, students, attack
Friday, 03 October 2014 06:19 PM
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