SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The deputy chairman of the Hong Kong legislative council’s security panel has accused the government of working with criminal gangs to break up pro-democracy protests.
Legislator James To told his fellow pan-democratic members on Saturday that “the [Hong Kong] government has used organised, orchestrated forces and even triad gangs in [an] attempt to disperse citizens,” according to the South China Morning Post.
His comments came as fresh clashes erupted between pro-democracy protesters and armed thugs on Saturday, with student leaders also accusing the government and the police of allowing triad gangs to attack them.
Witnesses said about 1,000 protesters faced off in Mong Kok, a densely populated known for its gang presence, at mid-morning on Saturday, but there were no uniformed police in sight.
Pro-democracy activists vowed to stand their ground over the weekend. “We will retreat after that if the situation gets worse, such as if mobs start flashing their knives at us,” Daniel Tang, who is in his 30s, told Reuters.
Thugs punched and kicked protesters on Friday night, drawing blood as they tore down their tents and attempted to force them out.
At least 12 people and six police officers were injured during the clashes on Friday, senior superintendent Patrick Kwok Pak-chung told the Associated Press.
Student leaders called off talks with the government, which were offered on Thursday, accusing officials of allowing violence to be used against them. It dashed the hopes of a resolution of the standoff prompted by a mass movement that has seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets of the city.
Demonstrators were already angry that Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, had not resigned and they had little faith in the promise of dialogue bringing change.
At times over the past week police have left the streets, saying they wanted to ease tensions, but the reason for their apparent absence on Saturday morning was unclear.
The Federation of Students said the government must provide further explanation for the violence in Mong Kok on Friday before they can hold talks with the administration, the South China Morning Post reported.
They also called on supporters to attend an assembly at the main protest site in Admiralty on Saturday evening to voice their opposition to the violence.
Alex Chow, the federation’s secretary general, said they would decide whether to escalate the demonstrations after the assembly and dependant on the government’s response.
On Friday, the veteran democracy activist Martin Lee and the Occupy Central leader, Benny Tai, blamed triads for the violence in Mong Kok. Police later confirmed that some of the 19 people arrested had triad backgrounds.
The renewed violence came as the ruling Communist party’s official newpaper, the People’s Daily, praised Hong Kong police for their restraint in the face of what it said in a front-page editorial were lawless protests, including the “poking” of police with umbrellas.
“A democratic society should respect the opinions of the minority, but it does not mean those minorities have the right to resort to illegal means,” it stated.
The protests will never spill over into the rest of China … For the minority of people who want to foment a ‘colour revolution’ on the mainland by way of Hong Kong, this is but a daydream,” it said.
Mong Kok has also seen angry confrontations between protesters and residents, who said the occupation had disrupted their lives and damaged business – reflected in the large number of bystanders yelling at the remaining demonstrators.
“We are in China. If you don’t like it go away. This is the fucking motherland,” a middle-aged member of the crowd, who gave his name as CL Fu, told Reuters. He said he was a resident and was angry about the disruption caused.
“Of course we love China, but we are worried about damage to Hong Kong economics. That’s why we’re here,” he added.