By The Straits Times/Asia News Network
A man went on a knife rampage in Hong Kong late Sunday (Nov 3) leaving at least six people wounded, including a local pro-democracy politician who had his ear bitten off, capping another chaotic day of political unrest in the city.
Flash-mob rallies erupted inside multiple shopping centres across the international finance hub over the afternoon, sparking frequent clashes with riot police.
The violence was less sustained than Saturday when police and protesters fought hours of cat and mouse battles after thousands took the streets for an unsanctioned march.
But the day ended with a knife attack taking place outside a shopping mall in Tai Koo Shing, a middle-class neighbourhood on the main island where protesters had gathered for much of the afternoon.
Eye-witnesses told local media that a Mandarin-speaking man attacked people shortly after shouting pro-Beijing slogans.
Live footage showed Andrew Chiu, a local pro-democracy councillor, had his ear bitten off after trying to subdue the attacker, while a second man was seen unconscious in a growing pool of blood as bystanders desperately tried to stem wounds to his back.
The alleged assailant, wearing a grey t-shirt, was then beaten bloody by the crowd.
Police told AFP that six people in total were wounded – four men and two women – and that three people were arrested, without detailing whether the alleged attacker was among those counted as injured.
Masked protesters returned on Sunday afternoon following clashes with police in several Hong Kong districts a day earlier that resulted in more than 200 people arrested and at least 54 injured.
Protesters gathered in seven districts on Sunday afternoon, heeding online calls for people to take to the streets to protest against alleged police brutality, local broadcaster RTHK reported.
At New Town Plaza shopping centre in the New Territories town of Sha Tin, some protesters targeted facilities at the Sha Tin MTR station connected to the mall.
Using fire extinguishers, the protesters vandalised turnstiles and smashed up glass panes of a customer service centre at the station. Within minutes, the protesters fled to other floors of the mall. Some protesters also threw objects from height at police officers who arrived at the scene, said police in a statement.
Police fired pepper spray at a number of people at the mall and arrests were made. They also subdued several people outside Sha Tin Town Hall, RTHK reported.
At Trend Plaza in Tuen Mun, another town in the New Territories, a large group of masked protesters vandalised and threw paint at shops at the mall. Protesters also blocked the main exits of the shopping centre with umbrellas and cable ties, said police in a statement.
Meanwhile, people who gathered at Tamar Park in Admiralty earlier in the afternoon were cleared out by police who said that the park was closed due to concerns of an illegal assembly there, local broadcaster TVB reported.
Hong Kong has been mired in five months of escalating protests that are showing no signs of abating. Protesters are angry at perceived Chinese meddling with Hong Kong’s freedoms since the city returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, a charge which China denies.
On Sunday morning, cleaners swept up broken glass at the Hong Kong office of China’s official news agency Xinhua, one of the buildings vandalised in a violent day of protests which also saw activists hurl petrol bombs and set fire to metro stations.
While protesters have previously vandalised buildings of mainland Chinese companies or those perceived as pro-Beijing, the targeting of Xinhua is one of the most direct challenges to Beijing yet. Protesters daubed China’s Liaison Office, the key symbol of Chinese sovereignty, with graffiti in July.
Xinhua condemned the attack by what it said were “barbaric thugs” who broke doors and security systems and threw fire and paint bombs into the lobby.
“The practice of the black rioters once again shows that ‘stopping the violence and restoring order’ is Hong Kong’s most important and urgent task at present,” a spokesman for Xinhua said in a Facebook post.
Chinese state media, including the official People’s Daily, have condemned the vandalism, saying that it was an attack on laws that protect press freedom. The newspaper also said that the attack had crossed the bottom line of any civilised country, RTHK reported.
In an editorial, the Communist Party tabloid, Global Times, said the vandalising of Xinhua’s Hong Kong office shows a new escalation in violence and destruction on the island.
It said that Xinhua’s Hong Kong branch, founded in 1947, is not an ordinary news agency as it had unique contributions in the process of Hong Kong’s return to China.
“Due to the symbolic image of Xinhua, the vandalising of its branch is not only a provocation to the rule of law in Hong Kong, but also to the central government and the Chinese mainland, which is the rioters’ main purpose,” said Global Times.
When Reuters visited the building housing the Xinhua news agency on Sunday, a handful of cleaners could be seen through shattered glass doors and windows sweeping the floor, watched over by staff members speaking on their phones.
Outside, some tourists and other media curiously eyed the destruction.