Six men have been arrested in Hong Kong in connection with a seemingly unprovoked and indiscriminate mob attack that injured 45 people at a metro station on Sunday night and outraged a city not used to such violent scenes.
The men, whose ages range from 24 to 54, will face charges of “unlawful assembly” police said in a press conference on Monday. Their motives are still under investigation but police said some of those arrested had links to local criminal gangs known as Triads.
Footage posted on social media Sunday night showed a marauding gang of masked men, wearing white T-shirts and wielding batons and sticks, blindly attacking crowds on the platform and inside train carriages at Yuen Long MTR station, in the far northwest of the city.
Tens of thousands had taken to the streets Sunday for the seventh consecutive weekend, amid an ongoing political crisis over a now-suspended extradition bill.
Many of those caught up in the violence were returning home after taking part in mass demonstrations in the city, leading to accusations that the gangs had been paid to stoke unrest and target protesters.
Forty-five people were hospitalized following the violence in Yuen Long, with one person in critical condition, according to Hong Kong’s Information Services Department. Videos showed people being beaten on the floor and left bloodied and dazed.
The incident angered many in the city, a feeling that was exacerbated by police taking around an hour to arrive on scene and not making any arrests that night. The nature and ferocity of the attack also has people questioning Hong Kong police’s ability to protect the city’s residents.
Protesters have vowed to march in Yuen Long on Sunday to protest the violence.
What, or who, are Triads?
The six men were detained after raids on their homes in Yuen Long and nearby Tin Shui Wai districts – which are close to the Chinese border – on Monday, according to the New Territories North Regional Crime Unit.
The suspects include drivers, vendors, renovation workers and the unemployed and police said some had “Triad backgrounds.”
Triad is a name given to Hong Kong’s organized crime syndicates that make their money through illicit drugs, gambling and prostitution among other activities. It has also become to refer to more loosely organized criminal gangs in the city. Some groups, especially the bigger, more powerful gangs who operate in the rural New Territories villages, wield political power through district councils and other political connections.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said on Facebook that the scenes in Yuen Long were evident of a “more than apparent collusion between the police and the Triads in that neighborhood.”
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo on Monday denied accusations that law enforcement officials were working with gangs hired to attack protesters and said the delay was because police resources were deployed to the main protest site on Hong Kong island, about an hour away from Yuen Long.
“We will investigate whether we were inefficient but we are not related to triads. I ask you to trust the police force. Last night, we were all focusing on Hong Kong island. We needed to regroup for Yuen Long,” he said.