One of the leaders of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement was brutally beaten by a group of masked men wielding hammers and knives on his way to a meeting Wednesday evening, receiving injuries to his head and body.
Activists say they are unbowed in the face of the brutal attack on Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), in Kowloon’s Mong Kok area of the city.
Sham and CHRF have organized some of the largest of the mass protests that have paralyzed the city over the last four months. The demonstrations have become increasingly violent, as protesters have clashed with police, who are using tear gas and rubber bullets to dispel them.
Despite Wednesday’s brutal attack, Sham and his colleagues say they won’t be intimidated, and are pushing ahead with plans for another mass protest march on Sunday.
“We lost lives in the course of protests, we have more than two thousand protestors being arrested, many are injured by police brutality or state-sponsored thugs, and even lawmakers and activists were attacked,” Eric Lai, a colleague of Sham’s at the CHRF, told VICE News. “But people in Hong Kong are not afraid of expressing their demands and beliefs in the face of political violence.”
Sham said he was walking to a CHRF meeting at around 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday when he was surrounded by four people wielding hammers. They attacked him, targeting his head and limbs. A group of people at a nearby garage attempted to intervene, but the attackers threatened them at knifepoint.
Sham said the attackers then fled in a seven-seater car.
Sham was brought to the hospital where he was treated for his injuries, which included three wounds on his head, each about 1-2in long. He did not suffer any fractured or broken bones, though his knee and elbow joints were swollen.
No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack. The police told a press conference late Wednesday night they are investigating the incident and said the attack was conducted by four masked men of “of non-Chinese descent” who were dressed in black.
The CHRF said there’s a clear connection between the assault on Sham and the ongoing political turmoil in the city.
“The Civil Human Rights Front strongly condemns the acts of the perpetrators. It is not hard to link this incident to a spreading political terror in order to threaten and inhibit the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights,” the Front said in a statement.
Others have connected the attack to up-coming local elections in November. The assault on Sham, who is a candidate for the Sha Tin District Council’s Lek Yuen constituency, came a week after two candidates running for the upcoming District Council election were assaulted while canvassing in their districts.
“The recent blatant attacks on Jimmy Sham and other District Council candidates are attempts to spread white terror across the city,” Joshua Wong, a prominent Hong Kong activist who helped lead the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, told VICE News. “All of them intentionally targeted pro-democracy figures, showing that assailants and the authority behind them worry about the high turnout in the upcoming election which benefits pro-democracy candidates.”
But Wong believes the attacks won’t succeed in silencing opposition voices:
“The assaults only add fuel to the fire, even though they are used to create a chilling effect on protesters with force and fear. More people realize democracy is the only way out. Injustice will only make Hongkongers more determined, resolute and tenacious in our cause for democracy.”
Protesters are adamant that a mass march will go ahead as planned on Sunday. The CHRF is calling on the police to publicly grant permission for the march to go ahead..
On Wednesday, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, was shouted down in parliament while delivering her state of the union speech, finally having to deliver it by video.
Her speech attempted to begin to address some of the issues at the heart of the conflict, but protesters dismissed it, saying it didn’t address their five core demands, which include a fully independent investigation into police behavior, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterization of protests as “riots.”
On Thursday, the Legislative Council chamber once again descended into chaos when 12 pro-democracy lawmakers were forcibly removed after repeatedly chanting slogans such as “five demands, not one less.” and holding up placards showing Lam with blood on her hands.
Cover: A protester holds a sign outside Legislative Council as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivers her speech in Hong Kong Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. In chaotic scenes, furious pro-democracy lawmakers twice forced Hong Kong's leader to stop delivering a speech laying out her policy objectives and then clamored for her to resign after she walked out of the legislature on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)