HONG KONG - Saying that violence would only breed more violence, with everyone suffering as a result, a grim-faced Carrie Lam and her cabinet members on Monday (July 22) publicly condemned the separate acts of violence that shook Hong Kong on Sunday night, the vandalism committed by anti-extradition protesters on a Chinese liaison office, and the brutal attack on protesters and train passengers by an armed mob at Yuen Long Station.
At a press conference on Monday afternoon, the Chief Executive blasted the group of radical protesters who had vandalised the exterior of Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Ying Pun, calling it a blatant challenge to national sovereignty.
Mrs Lam, who was flanked by key members of her administration in a show of solidarity, said their act of defacing China’s national emblem threatened the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and hurt the feelings of all Chinese people.
Following the defacing of the office, violent clashes broke out between the demonstrators and the police in Sheung Wan and Central. Police fired rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the hostile crowd throwing bottles, umbrellas and bricks at officers.
At about the time that this was happening, dozens of masked men wearing white tops and armed with sticks and umbrellas stormed Yuen Long Station near the Shenzhen border and began attacking commuters. At least 45 people were hurt with one man in critical condition.
News outlet HK01 was reporting on Monday night that six men, including suspected gang members of the Wo Shing Wo and 14K triads, have been arrested in connection with the attack.
Mrs Lam said she had instructed police chief Stephen Lo to bring the culprits to justice.
“Hong Kong is a society based on the rule of law. We do not condone any violence. Last night, we witnessed the lawlessness and wilful hurt of citizens and train passengers by the attackers in Yuen Long Station. Their acts are hateful,” she said.
Like Mrs Lam, Mr Lo slammed Sunday’s violence, adding that officers are actively gathering evidence on the Yuen Long Station attacks.
The police have come under fire from pro-democracy lawmakers and citizens for their delay of more than half an hour before going into the station to help victims. Some witnesses also said that men wearing helmets and armed with metal rods were not searched or arrested by officers.
Mr Lo said many officers had been deployed to Hong Kong island, some 30km away, to deal with the protesters in Sheung Wan. Furthermore, police had also been called to three other fights and a fire in the Yuen Long area around the same time, he said.
Pro-democracy lawmakers also said on Monday that suspected triad members had warned anti-extradition Bill protesters not to set foot in Yuen Long but police did not make preparations to protect civilians.
Pressed on why some people in Yuen Long who wore helmets and were armed with metal rods were not searched nor arrested when the police arrived, Mr Lo only said he would follow up on the matter.
On Monday afternoon, protesters wearing masks trashed the office of pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, public broadcaster RTHK reported. Mr Ho had been filmed shaking hands with white-shirted men in Yuen Long shortly before Sunday’s violence.
In a joint statement issued Monday, the pro-Beijing camp in the legislature said the storming of the liaison office and various other acts “seriously contravened the national constitution, destroyed Hong Kong’s social order, and harmed the people’s interest”.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Starry Lee said at a briefing: “Whoever commits such insult against our own nation, deprives himself of his own dignity. As we all know, they should be condemned.
It was not Hong Kong’s tradition or the wish of Hong Kong people to turn Hong Kong into the enemy of China, of which Hong Kong is part, she added.
Liaison office chief Wang Zhimin slammed the violence, saying Hong Kong protesters had hurt the feelings of China.