Anti-Protest Mob Attacks Hong Kong Student Camp
Several hundred pro-Beijing demonstrators opposed to a week-long protest led by Hong Kong's Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong have broken through police lines, smashing the pro-democracy protesters' tents and scuffling with student activists.
The South China Morning Post reports: "A group of mostly male anti-Occupy protestors appeared to be taking commands from a middle-aged Putonghua-speaking [Mandarin-speaking] woman wearing a face mask using a loud hailer at the junction of Argyle Street and Nathan Road [in Mong Kok district]. The thin line of police separating opposing sides was stretched to breaking point, and finally gave way shortly after 5pm. Soon after more police arrived as the tense stand-off continued."
The Associated Press describes the counter-protesters as Hong Kong residents and pro-Beijing supporters.
Tom Grundy, a blogger working with the BBC reports: "It's quite a dramatic scene – hundreds, perhaps thousands, of anti-Occupy Central people descended into the area and started ripping up tents, removing placards, slogans, from some of the buses stranded here. ... Police are periodically losing control of the situation. There are still some Occupy Central protesters here being separated from everyone else by police."
It was not immediately clear whether the attack on the protesters was spontaneous or part of a coordinated effort to break up the demonstrations, but student activists issued a statement calling them "organized attacks" and threatened to call off a planned dialogue with authorities if the government did not immediate stop the assaults.
The New York Times notes:
"The Mong Kok area is notorious for organized gangs known as triads that extort payments from the many small businesses there, or indeed own the businesses, and some of the protesters suggested that the men were connected to them. Asked if he was a member of such a group, another man who joined in tearing down the tents there, Steve Lin, 48, responded: 'I'm not a triad. I'm a Hong Konger.'"
The AP says: "The scuffles in Kowloon's crowded Mong Kok district were the most chaotic since police used tear gas and pepper spray on Sunday in an unsuccessful attempt to disperse protesters pressing for greater electoral reforms."
"Police were hard-pressed to keep order as the two sides tussled in a tense standoff. The visibly older people trying to force the vastly outnumbered protesters out were yelling, shoving and at times trying to drag the younger protesters away."
Elsewhere, in Causeway Bay, locals angered by the days of protests that had brought the neighborhood to a halt, confronted pro-democracy protesters. Three men were "shouting loudly using vulgar language against protesters." Later, the SCMP says, "[an] organised group of about 30 men wearing masks broke through Hennesy Road and reached Jardine's Bazaar and began removing barricades there."
Occupy Cenrtral protesters were angered that police did not stop the attack on their camp, some chanting "shame on you" at officers, the newspaper says.
The violence occurs a day after Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying refused the demands of pro-democracy protesters to step down. He did, however, agree to meet with students.
As we reported on Thursday, Leung, speaking at a news conference just 20 minutes before a deadline set by student activists for his resignation, said he would stay in the job but appointed his deputy, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, to meet with protesters to discuss "constitutional development."
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