A group of masked men attacked anti-government protesters and commuters at a Hong Kong train station on Sunday night, leaving at least 48 people injured and one person in critical condition.
Armed with sticks and wearing face masks, men in white T-shirts were captured on video storming the station at Yuen Long district and hitting anyone they could.
In the footage uploaded online by commuters, the group was seen violently attacking passengers, apparently targeting those who had been at an anti-government march as claimed by eyewitnesses.
Several thousand activists have been protesting around Beijing’s Liaison Office in the western part of Hong Kong Island, in Sheung Wan. The demonstrators, who sprayed graffiti on the walls, defaced the office’s plaque and threw eggs at the building, ended up clashing with riot police deployed in the area.
To clear protesters, police fired at least 10 rounds of tear gas on Connaught Road Central, reports South China Morning Post.
The black T-shirts that people wear to the protests were reportedly targeted in the attacks at Yuen Long station.
Some of the clips that emerged online about the train station attack showed people screaming for help as the men beat commuters composed of the protesters and journalists. A pregnant woman is also reported to have been among the injured after trying to protect her husband, according to Daily Mail.
Many have since criticized members of the Hong Kong police force of responding late and taking over an hour to reach the station. Some pointed out that the officers also failed to arrest the armed men who also stayed in the streets nearby until Monday morning, Channel NewsAsia reports.
Yuen Long is situated in the New Territories near the Chinese border, an area where criminal gangs and pro-Beijing rural committees reportedly remain influential.
Netizens have pointed out that the men in white shirts were later captured on film leaving the scene in cars allegedly with Chinese mainland number plates.
Opposition lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who was among those wounded in the attack, accused “triad members” of being behind the violent act.
“Their very barbaric and violent acts have already completely violated the bottom line of Hong Kong’s civilized society,” he was quoted as saying on Monday. “Is Hong Kong now allowing triads to do what they want, beating up people on the street with weapons?”
Other pro-democracy lawmakers, including Alvin Yeung, accused the pro-Beijing leaders in Hong Kong of turning a blind eye to the attacks during a press conference on Monday.
“This is triad gangs beating up Hong Kong people,” Yeung said. “Yet you pretend nothing had happened?”
Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was caught on camera shaking hands with the men in white shirts, saying “thanks for your hard work!”
On Monday, Ho went on to defend the men at a press conference, saying they were merely “defending their home and people.” Hong Kong police also released a statement on Monday “strongly condemning” the violent incidents both in Yuen Long and Hong Kong Island. While it noted that the force is investigating both cases, no arrests have been made at the station as of this writing.
Yuen Long assistant district police commander Yau Nai-Keung said they found no weapons when they arrived despite eyewitnesses saying the men in white brought poles and bamboo staves. “We can’t say you have a problem because you are dressed in white and we have to arrest you. We will treat them fairly no matter which camp they are in,” said Yau. In response to the criticisms on their slow response time, Yau explained that an initial police patrol had to wait for more reinforcements as the incident involved over 100 people.
Featured Image via Twitter / StellaLeehknews