Hong Kong will show its determination to stop the violent behavior of “rioters” who target China-related shops and people with different political views, the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.
“Rioters” wanted to paralyze the train system in the city by vandalizing the stations, spread terror by disrupting some targeted shops and restaurants and attack people who held different political views, Lam said in a stand-up briefing before the weekly Executive Council meeting.
Citizens must not use lynching, or so-called “private settlement” on other people in conflicts and disputes, Lam said. This illegal behavior had no bottom-line and had brought Hong Kong to a very dangerous situation, she said, adding that the government would stop it as soon as possible.
Lam and the Executive Council invoked the emergency law to pass an anti-mask law on Friday October 4, but the move spurred anger and protests in various parts of the city. Riot police were deployed to control the crowds.
During the rallies, several people were beaten up by black-shirted protesters after they were seen using violence on others.
At 11pm on Saturday, a man wielded a knife in a McDonald’s outlet in Tuen Mun and called for protesters not to disrupt other people’s livelihoods. He said a lot of people lost their jobs due to the protests over the past four months. He said protesters should only protest against government buildings, instead of MTR stations and shops.
The man claimed he was a knife-seller and wielded the weapon again outside the fast-food shop, trying to hurt someone. He was then beaten up by a group of masked people and fell down. He was sent to hospital with minor injuries.
At around 5pm on Sunday, a 59-year-old taxi driver surnamed Cheng was seen driving toward a crowd at the junction of Cheung Sha Wan Road and Yu Chau Street. His car suddenly sped up, crashing into the roadside and knocking down three people, two of whom were seriously injured. A 23-year-old woman who suffered bone fractures and cuts on her both legs was sent to Princess Margaret Hospital.
Cheng was then beaten up by people in black shirts, who accused him of murder. Riot police arrived and sent him to hospital. They said he was in a serious condition.
However, Cheng was not arrested by police, as he claimed that he lost control of his car. A 20-year-old man was later arrested for attacking Cheng and will face a rioting charge.
Also on Sunday, a former TV actress was punched in Mong Kok after she took pictures of people wearing masks, which led to a quarrel and her being kicked a man in a black shirt.
Anti-government protesters adopted a strategy last month of “private settlement” after they were disrupted by some pro-Beijing people at protest sites or ‘Lennon walls’. They said there had been many cases of protesters being attacked by gangsters, or people being arrested by police while the attackers went free.
The term “private settlement” is pronounced like “lion bird” in Cantonese, and some netizens have used innovative graphics to symbolize the protesters’ fight-back strategy.
On September 14, about 500 people wearing “I love HK” T-shirts and waving Chinese national flags gathered in Amoy Garden in Kowloon Tong. They quarreled with local residents and attacked some young people. When police arrived, they did not arrest the attackers – only some young residents. Police were slammed for their selective approach to justice.
Between 11pm on September 21 and 1am on September 22, at least five pro-Beijing men were injured. Two suffered bleeding on their heads after being attacked by people in black shirts with glass bottles on the streets. Another three were beaten up after they allegedly harassed a woman, removed posters from a ‘Lennon wall’ and secretly took pictures of others.
Some netizens later launched a guideline for protesters to fine-tune the “private settlement” strategy. It said that black-shirt people should not use force unless they are attacked by pro-Beijing people, such as triads or gangsters. And all force should be non-lethal. In recent protests, people wearing masks have generally followed that guideline.
Eric Lai Yan-ho, a doctoral candidate in Law at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), said in a press conference organized by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute on Tuesday that Carrie Lam should not blame protesters for their “private settlement” strategy as police had failed to stop gangsters from indiscriminately attacking people in Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.
A lot of Hong Kong people had lost trust in the police, who were supposed to protect people regardless of their political views, Lai said.
Barrister Lawrence Lau Wai-chung said in a video that according to common law, any person who is threatened by unjust and unreasonable violence could use “reasonable force” to protect himself or others. He said the key issue is whether the force used by the person who fights back is reasonably proportionate to that of the attacker. He said it should not be called “private settlement” but self-defense.