Hong Kong police have detained six men, some with links to triads, following a violent attack on pro-democracy protesters at a subway station that saw dozens injured.
Senior police official Chan Tin-chu said Monday the men, aged between 24 and 54, were held for “unlawful assembly” and is being investigated for taking part in the attack late Sunday night at the subway station in the Yuen Long neighborhood. Some of them are villagers, and their occupation range from drivers and hawkers to renovation workers, he said.
“Some of them have triad background,” he said. “I believe that more…will be detained soon. Police will not condone any form of violence.”
Police are still investigating the motive of the attack, Chan added, without providing further details on the alleged links to the triads, or organized crime.
A gang of white-clad men armed with metal rods and wooden poles beat up anti-government protesters and others inside a subway station at the Yuen Long neighborhood, injuring 45 people including a man who remained in critical condition.
Police have come under fire for being slow to respond to the violence against the protesters. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said police were stretched thin due to the massive crowds and denied accusations that her government colluded with the assailants.
The assault escalated a crisis that had thrown the former British colony into turmoil after millions of people took to the streets in waves of protest against an extradition bill that would send suspects for trial in China. Critics see it as rising Chinese influence and fear it will chip away at Hong Kong’s freedoms promised under a “one country, two system” formula since it returned to China in 1997.
More than 100,000 people took part in the latest rally in the city earlier Sunday to demand democracy and an investigation into the use of force by police to disperse crowds at protests. Some protesters directed their ire at China, pelting its office in Hong Kong with eggs, spray-painted its wall and defaced its emblem Sunday night.
As demonstrators made their way home, the white-clad men descended on a group of them at the subway station in Yuen Long. Videos showed them charging into the trains and beating up people who tried to defend themselves with umbrellas.
More protests have been planned but the latest violence has fueled fears that China’s People’s Liberation Army may intervene.