Another wave of violence washed over Hong Kong at Yuen Long transit station where a group dressed in white shirts attacked passengers with wooden sticks and metal bars. 45 People, including journalists, anti-government demonstrators, a pregnant woman, and a pro-democracy lawmaker were sent to the hospital. The transit attack happened after clashes earlier Sunday evening, where police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters who were vandalizing the Chinese government liaison building.
The gang of masked white shirts appeared in footage attacking people returning from the large anti-government rally. Ray Chan, a Pro-democracy lawmaker, tweeted: “Hong Kong has [one] of the world’s highest cop to population ratio. Where were @hkpoliceforce?” The police have given two responses, one by Stephen Lo to the New York Times, the Hong Kong police commissioner, who said, “Our manpower is stretched because every time when there is a major event which will lead to violent confrontations we have to deploy some manpower from various districts to Hong Kong Island.” The other response came from Yau Nai-keung, an assistant district police commander in Yuen Long, who to the New York Times, “they had seen no weapons and made no arrests because they could not be sure of who was involved.”
The details of the attack are varied. The New York Times spoke with a first-aid volunteer who was at Yuen Long station during the attack. “As civilians, including those with children, tried to flee the station, the masked men followed them onto an open train and continued beating people with wooden sticks,” he said. “It was like a stampede. They hit people indiscriminately, smiling as they beat them up.”
Pro-Beijing member of the Legislative Council and district council member of Tuen Mun, a district near Yuen Long, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu defended the white-clad attackers saying, “they were defending their home and people.” He added, “we can’t pardon the sin, but we can pardon the sinners.”
According to The South China Morning Post, there are videos and photos of Kwan-yiu shaking hands with men in white clothes and thanking them on Sunday night. Speaking further on the issue Kwan-yiu said, “Some of them I know, some are village chiefs, teachers, shop owners and car mechanics, I live in Yuen Long, so it is normal for me to be there.” He also refuted accusations that he conspired with the white shirts saying, “These white-clad men had already said they would drive the mob in black away if the latter dared to come to Yuen Long.”
Lam Cheuk-Ting, Pro-democracy member of the legislative council believes the white shirts are part of an underground crime syndicate often referred to as the triads. "Is Hong Kong now allowing triads to do what they want, beating up people on the street with weapons?" he asked reporters. Cheuk-Ting was at Yuen Long during the assaults and suffered injuries on his arms and face that required 18 stitches at the hospital. He posted a video from the assault on Facebook.
Cheuk-Ting told the New York Times, “he learned that someone was being assaulted in the station around 9 p.m., and he warned the police in Yuen Long. He then went there by train, where he said thugs carrying batons and wearing white shirts were running rampant.” He added, “they repeatedly went into the train and were using batons to indiscriminately attack all the people in the train. Many journalists, even a pregnant woman, all ordinary citizens of Hong Kong, were attacked by those gangsters.”
There were condemnations of the event on both sides. The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council also condemned the actions of the protesters who blocked the liaison office and vandalized it, and warned of serious consequences.
The Hong Kong government condemned both the Yuen Long incident and the violent clashes between police and protesters stating: “Following the storming of the Central People’s Government’s Liaison Office building, some radical protesters initiated a series of violent acts in Sheung Wan, despite repeated warnings by Police. These outrageous, violent acts included hurling petrol bombs, setting fires and throwing bricks. Thoroughfares were also blocked. Meanwhile in Yuen Long, some people congregated at the platforms of the MTR station and train compartments, attacking commuters. It led to confrontations and injuries. This is absolutely unacceptable to Hong Kong as a society that observes the rule of law. The SAR Government strongly condemns any violence and will seriously take enforcement actions”
Speaking outside the mainland liaison building on Monday, Wang Zhimin, director of Beijing’s liaison office, said an “illegal mob” had “seriously hurt the feelings of the entire Chinese people”. According to the Guardian, Chinese state media called the attack a “blatant challenge to the central government”.