new and shocking form of violence hit Hong Kong on Sunday night with dozens of masked thugs storming into a metro station and attacking commuters.
The attack occurred at around 10:30 pm inside the Yuen Long MTR station where the thugs, dressed in white and wearing masks, used wooden and metal rods to beat people.
Targeted in this attack were those wearing black, which has become the color commonly worn by protesters participating in the anti-extradition demonstrations which have rocked Hong Kong in recent weeks.
How the attack happened
Many of those in the station were returning from yet another large-scale march that ended in clashes between police and protesters on Hong Kong Island. The government has accused demonstrators of throwing bricks into police lines while police responded again with tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators.
Video from the scene inside the MTR station shows the thugs breaking through a gate and going on a rampage, even boarding metro carriages to take a whack at helpless commuters.
Video filmed inside #YuenLong MTR train station.
— Kinling Lo 盧建靈 (@kinlinglo) July 21, 2019
The blood stains left behind in yoho mall after the thugs stormed the mtr station and hit people pic.twitter.com/J99BLae7dJ
— Jeffie Lam (@jeffielam) July 21, 2019
In this video (sent by a friend) you can see the white-shirted thugs relentlessly beating up one person in a black shirt with long wooden sticks and umbrellas. Only some have masks – these thugs clearly do not fear any repercussions for their violent actions#YuenLong #antielab pic.twitter.com/4swUQUAOXs
— Jun Pang (@hyjpang) July 21, 2019
More scenes of the most savage violence from Triad members in Yuen Long MTR, where anyone suspected of being a pro-democracy demonstrator returning from the march (particularly people in black, which has been the dress code) was brutally attacked. Police didn't arrive for 30 mins pic.twitter.com/aCmPxpDMag
— Jack Hazlewood (@JackHHazlewood) July 21, 2019
While anti-extradition protesters may have been the targets of this attack, they were not the only ones injured in the chaos. Footage shared online shows a pregnant woman lying on the floor of the station after reportedly fainting in the turmoil.
21 July #YuenLongDarkNight #元朗黑夜 #HongKong@hkpoliceforce #anarchy #HongKongProtest
A pregnant woman was among the injured during the white shirt gang attack inside MTR Station pic.twitter.com/xor73sIHvg
— RealHKNews (@RealHKNews) July 21, 2019
Meanwhile, a reporter for Hong Kong’s Stand Newswas beaten herself while recording a livestream of the attack.
This is a clip from Gwyneth Ho (@StandNewsHK)'s live video. Look at how vehement and vicious the white-shirts are in their attacks on protesters. Look at their matching weapons – their long wooden sticks & umbrellas. #antielab #YuenLong
— Jun Pang (@hyjpang) July 21, 2019
A total of 45 people were injured in the attack including one who is in critical condition.
Where were the police?
The Hong Kong police have been widely condemned for their response to the chaotic situation with some even insinuating that the thugs were working with police.
While the attack began at around 10:30 pm, it took police more than 30 minutes to arrive at the scene in force. By that time, the thugs were gone. No arrests have yet been made over the attack.
“Is Hong Kong now allowing triads to do what they want, beating up people on the street with weapons?” said Democratic party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting who was among those injured in the attack.
Sharing video of Lam being beaten, pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan tweeted: “Hong Kong has one of the world’s highest cop to population ratio. Where were [the Hong Kong police force]?”
Snippet of a live broadcast from lawmaker Lam Cheuk ting, showing self-professed pro-Gov't mobsters attacking passengers in train cars at #MTR #YuenLong Stn. #HongKong has 1 of the world's highest cop to population ratio. Where were @hkpoliceforce? Lam was injured as shown live. pic.twitter.com/Aq5JmJlf5u
— Ray Chan (@ray_slowbeat) July 21, 2019
On Monday morning, a police spokesperson said that they had received a call about trouble at the MTR station at around 10:45 pm. Two officers arrived seven minutes later but found that the situation was too dangerous and called for backup.
However, that backup didn’t arrive until 11:20 pm because there were many other incidents in the same district for police to deal with at the time, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson dismissed rumors that police had collaborated with the thugs and vowed that arrests would be made.
Who was behind the attack?
So far, it is not known who the men are — though they are thought to be members of a local triad — and who may have ordered them to carry out the attack.
However, fingers have quickly pointed at pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, who lives in Yuen Long, with video circulating online showing him shaking hands with some of the men dressed in white and giving them a thumbs up on the street.
This video circulating is of Junius Ho, the former president to of the HK law society and a lawmaker shaking hands with the people waving China flags in Yuen Long pic.twitter.com/Q2kXeg03y1
— Pak Yiu (@pakwayne) July 21, 2019
At his own press conference on Monday, Ho insisted that he had nothing to do with the attack, saying that it was normal for him to shake hands with his constituents and that he had no idea what the men had just done.
Ho then tried to shake hands with the reporter who asked him about his interactions with the thugs. She turned him down.
“My job is to reach out. Whether or not you accept is another matter,” he said.
#LIVE: A foreign journalist refused to shake hands with pro-govt lawmaker Junius Ho. She asked him why he shook hands with men in white clothes last night, when civilians were beaten to bloody pulps. #antiELAB #freedomhk pic.twitter.com/yucN6jqGQD
— Lok. (@sumlokkei) July 22, 2019
Though, Ho isn’t so cordial to everyone. Back in 2017, he got into some trouble for saying that activists who called for Hong Kong to break away from China should be “killed mercilessly.”