Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Men in white shirts armed with metal rods and wooden poles attack commuters at a subway station in New Territory in Hong Kong.

The Associated Press

Hong Kong police faced criticism on Monday for an apparent failure to protect anti-government protesters and passersby from attack by what opposition politicians suspected were gang members at a train station over the weekend.

Sunday’s attack came during a night of escalating violence that opened new fronts in Hong Kong’s widening crisis over an extradition bill that could see people from the territory sent to China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts.

Protesters had earlier on Sunday surrounded China’s main representative office in the Asian financial hub and defaced walls and signs and clashed with police.

Story continues below advertisement

Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, condemned the attack on the Central Government Liaison Office, saying it was a “challenge” to national sovereignty.

She condemned violent behaviour of any kind and said she had been shocked by the clashes at the station, adding that police would investigate fully. “Violence will only breed more violence,” Lam said while flanked by senior city officials.

Some politicians and activists have linked Hong Kong’s shadowy network of triad criminal gangs to political intimidation and violence in recent years, sometimes against pro-democracy activists and critics of Beijing.

TRUMP HOPES XI “WILL DO THE RIGHT THING”

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump said he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping has acted “very responsibly” with the protests, which have been the Chinese leader’s greatest popular challenge since he came to power in 2012.

“I know that that’s a very important situation for President Xi,” Trump told reporters when asked about images of protesters being beaten and whether Beijing might have allowed this to happen.

“You could say what you said, but you could also say that he has allowed that to go on for a long time and ... I think it’s been relatively nonviolent.”

Asked if he thought the protests should be allowed to continue, Trump said: “Well, they are ... I don’t think China has stopped them. China could stop them if they wanted. ... I think that President Xi of China has acted responsibly, very responsibly. ... I hope that President Xi will do the right thing, but it has been going on a long time, there’s no question ...”

Story continues below advertisement

Hong Kong has been hit by a series of sometimes violent protests for over two months – its most serious crisis since the city was handed back by Britain to China in 1997 but with democratic freedoms under a “one country, two systems” formula.

On Sunday night, scores of men in white T-shirts, some armed with clubs, flooded into the rural Yuen Long station and stormed a train, assaulting passengers with pipes, poles and other objects, according to video footage.

Witnesses, including Democratic lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, said the men appeared to target black-shirted passengers who had been at an anti-government march.

Lawmaker Lam, who was wounded in the face and hospitalized, said the police ignored his appeals to them to intervene to prevent bloodshed. “They deliberately turned a blind eye to these attacks by triads on regular citizens,” he told Reuters, saying the floors of the station were streaked with blood.

“I won’t speculate on why they didn’t help immediately.”

Later on Monday night, a police spokeswoman confirmed the arrests of two men, aged 45 and 48, related to an unlawful assembly in Yuen Long. They provided no other details.

Story continues below advertisement

‘NOT A NORMAL CONFRONTATION’

Forty-five people were injured in the violence at the station, with one in critical condition, according to hospital authorities.

Men attacking pro-democracy protesters (out of frame at right) on a train on the platform in Hong Kong.

HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong police chief Stephen Lo, asked about concerns that officers had been slow to respond to the clash at the station, said there had been a need to “redeploy manpower from other districts.”

Police stations nearby had closed, given the risk of unrest, and a patrol on the scene needed to wait for reinforcements, he said.

“We will pursue at all costs to bring the offenders to justice,” he told reporters, while pledging to restore public confidence in the police force.

Asked by a reporter if police had colluded with triads at the station, Lo said the force had no connections to triads.

Witnesses saw groups of men in white with poles and bamboo staves at a nearby village but police later found no weapons and allowed the men to leave without making any arrests.

Story continues below advertisement

“We can’t say you have a problem because you are dressed in white and we have to arrest you,” said Yau Nai-keung, an assistant police commander in the area. “We will treat them fairly no matter which camp they are in.”

Some banks, shops and government facilities in the area closed early on Monday amid fears of more trouble, and few people ventured out on the streets, eyewitnesses said.

In 2014, Hong Kong’s anti-triad police units investigated triad gang attacks on protesters during pro-democracy demonstrations that shut down parts of the city for 79 days.

Alvin Yeung, a barrister and lawmaker with the pro-democracy Civic Party, said he was sure the railway station attackers were gang members.

“I hope that the police will not deceive themselves. It is a triad fight, and not a normal confrontation.”

RUBBER BULLETS

Under the terms of the 1997 handover from Britain, Hong Kong was allowed to retain extensive freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland under a “one country, two systems” model, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.

Story continues below advertisement

Many city residents fear that the proposed extradition law, which would allow people to be extradited to mainland China for trial, would undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

A man in a white T-shirt threatens pro-democracy protesters on the train platform following clashes between the two groups.

HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

The city’s Beijing-backed government, responding to the scale of the protests, postponed the bill and later said it was “dead.” But the protesters are demanding its formal withdrawal and urged city leader Lam to quit – something she refuses to do.

They are also demanding independent inquiries into the use of the police against protesters. Some are also demanding full democracy – anathema to Beijing’s party leadership.

In a rare comment, the pro-establishment Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce strengthened earlier criticism of the bill and issued a statement urging its full withdrawal.

They also endorsed calls for an independent inquiry, acknowledging “frustrations” surrounding perceptions that public demands were being ignored.

On Sunday, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse activists after thousands ringed Beijing’s Liaison Office. Police said protesters hurled bricks, smoke grenades and petrol bombs during the unrest that broke out after hundreds of thousands marched through the city streets.

Story continues below advertisement

The Chinese government, including office director Wang Zhimin, condemned the turmoil, which included spray-painting and hurling eggs at walls and a national emblem at the Liaison Office, saying the behaviour challenged the “authority and dignity” of the Chinese government.

A foreign ministry spokesman said such acts tested Beijing’s limits. “Some radical protester behaviour violated our bottom line of ‘one country, two systems’. We cannot tolerate that,” said spokesman Geng Shuang.

The unrest in Hong Kong marks the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies