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Arrival of 'Triads' Doesn't Bode Well in Hong Kong

Organized gangs go after pro-democracy demonstrators
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2019 11:10 AM CDT
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In this image taken from video footage, white-shirted men attack a man at a subway station in Hong Kong on Sunday.   (The Stand News via AP Video)
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(Newser) – Unrest in Hong Kong reached a disturbing new level over the weekend, with a mob of men clad in white shirts brutally attacking pro-democracy demonstrators in black shirts at a subway station. Police didn't intervene in the beatings, which followed a major protest in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, China sent signals that a crackdown is growing more likely. Details and developments:

  • Dozens injured: The AP reports that at least 45 people were injured when the white-clad mob stormed the Yuen Long subway station and seemed to single out people in black shirts. (Many pro-democracy demonstrators were dressed in black at an earlier protest, and they were returning home via the subway.) The attackers were armed with clubs or similar weapons, or just used their fists. Police were being criticized Monday for their failure to intervene, reports Reuters.

  • Who were they? The white-clad men appeared to belong to organized crime gangs known as triads, reports the New York Times. Critics accused them of working in cahoots with the government, and the Times notes that "Hong Kong has a long history of thugs and gang members intimidating protesters." Photojournalists captured images of riot police speaking with two masked men holding sticks or metal bars, and even patting one on the shoulder before leaving.
  • Shift in China: The Wall Street Journal reports that China, after largely ignoring the weekslong unrest, is suddenly allowing selected images to appear on social media, "a change in tack that appears aimed at fanning public anger against the demonstrations." Specifically, images from Hong Kong with a pro-Beijing bent are being allowed. The Journal quotes a China researcher at Macquarie University as saying the move could signal trouble ahead, even perhaps some kind of military intervention. "The Chinese government is essentially preparing the people for a potential acceleration of the crisis in Hong Kong," he says.
  • Beijing's condemnation: In Sunday's protests, demonstrators vandalized China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong following a march of an estimated 100,000 people, per the AP. The office of a pro-China lawmaker also was vandalized. On Monday, Chinese state media condemned the vandalism by "radical protesters." And a Foreign Ministry spokesman said local officials should "use all necessary measures to ... safeguard the rule of law in Hong Kong," per the Journal.
  • Livestreamed: Gwyneth Ho of Stand News livestreamed the assault in the subway station. See the video. (Warning: It's violent.) Ho said she needed four stitches on her shoulder and suffered bruises on her back and head.
(Read more Hong Kong stories.)

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