Anger, Introspection Follow Assaults by HK Protesters

Anger, Introspection Follow Assaults by HK Protesters

In separate incidents on Tuesday, the fifth day of a sit-in that had paralyzed Hong Kong airport, two mainland Chinese men were detained and beaten by protesters. Anger at increasingly aggressive policing over the weekend, which led to injuries including the loss of a protest medic’s eye, had mixed with anxiety over infiltration of the protests by plainclothes police. The Wall Street Journal’s Jon Emont and Mike Bird described what followed:

The mood turned uglier in the evening as protesters turned on a young man among them whom they suspected of being an undercover police officer. Protesters searched his pockets and said they found an identification card bearing a name matching one in an online database of police officers in Shenzhen.

At one point, some protesters suggested they would let the man go but others dissented. A handful of airport officials attempted to intervene but were rebuffed. A small group of protesters tied the man up and shuffled him around the stiflingly hot airport hall for three hours, chanting “Bear the consequences.”

Later in the evening a second man was seized by protesters and accused of being in league with the police. They detained him and emptied his bags, finding a blue shirt emblazoned with a slogan supporting the police, and a business card of a member of a pro-Beijing organization.

Protesters surrounded him and beat him as he lay on the floor. The editor in chief of the Global Times, a pro-government Chinese tabloid, tweeted that the man was a reporter with the paper and asked the protesters to release him. Medics made their way to the injured man, who was hauled onto a stretcher and carried out to a waiting ambulance. [Source]

CNN’s James Griffiths described the first victim’s ordeal as it happened. From a longer thread:

Global Times editor confirmed the second victim’s identity:

According to one of his captors, speaking to Stand News, Fu initially aroused suspicion by taking close-up photos of protesters. He was wearing a neon press vest, but (according to other sources) not displaying a press card. When challenged over the photos, a sensitive issue since early on in the protest movement, he denied that he was a reporter, apparently fearing the protesters’ reaction to his affiliation with Global Times. The New York Times has posted extended video of Fu’s nearly hour-long ordeal from the Associated Press. The BBC’s Zhaoyin Feng noted key moments on Twitter, including beatings and abuse by some protesters, but also efforts to defend him by others, joined by pro-democracy lawmakers. She concluded:

Others also dismissed dismay at the attacks and the anticipated response:

Global Times swiftly reported on the two incidents:

“Rioters in Hong Kong are targeting mainland tourists and passengers as a way of venting their frustrations. They were mad and crazy and were carried away by violence. No matter what their motivations were, the act of violence is unacceptable,” Li Xiaobing, expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, from Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Tuesday night.

Observers and mainland netizens are angry and criticized the airport’s administration for doing nothing to stop the violence. “Is the airport supporting the violence against mainland passengers as well?” said a netizen on Sina Weibo.

Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Hong Kong airport has failed to implement effective measures to cope with the rioters and showed little will to do so. He said the airport could have shut off the air conditioning, water supply or cut off the power, but in the end chose not to respond to violent acts.

[…] He urged Hongkongers who wish to maintain the rule of law to make their voices heard or otherwise they will be held historically accountable for the fall of the city. [Source]

The behavior cannot be justified and does not deserve forgiveness, and it just proves that the radical protesters are incapable of nothing other than venting their negativity in a violent manner, Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times.

[…] The rioters’ proficiency in strapping people with tape, binding victims and recording the whole process is evidence that they are professionally trained for those violent acts, said Shen.

[…] “They are a group of professional mobs, as well as pathetic cannon folder. They are like zombies that willfully damage the city infected with a virus,” said Shen.

The chaotic state of terror, the direct violence of internal and external collusion, the targeting of people who speak Putonghua and from the Chinese mainland, these are all signs of clear terrorism. Fu is a great Chinese and we must remember all this. To those of you who support the terror, you have Fu’s blood on your hands, and you are also responsible, Zhang Yiwu, a cultural expert from Peking University, told the Global Times. [Source]

Global Times’ broadsides were followed by official statements. From China Daily:

The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office responded to the violence at the airport.

[…] “The atrocity has totally gone beyond the bottom line of a civilized society, which is no different from terrorists’ acts,” the Liaison Office statement said.

The office pointed out that the protesters’ acts, including paralyzing operations of the airport and harassing passengers of various nationalities and ages, severely hurt others’ rights and damaged Hong Kong’s international reputation.

“This time the protesters have torn down their deceptive masks of ‘peace, rationality and nonviolence'”, the statement said.

[…] “Recently, the radical violators in Hong Kong have completely breached the bottom line of law, morality and humanity. Their flagrant acts of serious violent crimes in public are shocking and chilling,” [the HKMAO’s] statement read. “Their violence was an extreme contempt for the rule of law, which has seriously damaged Hong Kong’s international image and hurt the feelings of compatriots on the mainland.” [Source]

Journalism advocacy groups also condemned the attack on Fu. The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Carlos Martinez de la Serna described the incident as “unacceptable,” adding that “journalists from all outlets must be allowed to cover the demonstrations in Hong Kong without having to fear for their safety.” (CPJ’s statement closed with a reminder of its previous expressions of concern about violence against journalists by police.)

The Hong Kong Journalists Association also issued a statement on Facebook, expressing regret and condemning violence, highlighting another recent incident, and offering some pointed advice:

At the weekend, a group of protesters has demanded a reporter from Hong Kong China News Agency to delete pictures she took. On Tuesday night, a reporter from the mainland’s Global Times was surrounded by protesters. He was being tied up. Both reporters did not show their press cards when the incidents occurred.

HKJA urge people to give respect to reporters who have clearly shown their identification documents and exercised the fourth power. Their reporting work should not be obstructed. Doing so will interfere with press freedom.

In order to avoid misunderstanding, HKJA also urges mainland journalists to clearly show their press cards when they cover large-scale demonstrations and rallies in Hong Kong. This will help people identify journalists and for them to decide whether they give consent to giving interviews and allowing photo-taking by journalists from their relevant organisations. [Source]

Outrage at the incident swiftly spread on Chinese social media:

From Philip Wen and Chun Han Wong at The Wall Street Journal:

On the Weibo microblogging service, the hashtag “Fu Guohao is a real man” became one of the most popular discussion topics, garnering some 670 million views as of Wednesday evening.

“Right now you have 1.4 billion family members! We support him!” read one typical comment on social media.

Dozens of supporters, many clad in red shirts, greeted Mr. Fu with bouquets of flowers and banners expressing support after he was discharged from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, in footage carried by state broadcaster China Central Television on its flagship evening newscast.

[…] One of Mr. Fu’s university classmates told a state-run newspaper in Qingdao that Mr. Fu’s original name was “Fu Hao,” a Chinese homophone for “rich and powerful person.” According to the former classmate, Mr. Fu “probably felt that this name was too ostentatious,” so he changed it to “Guohao”—which can translate to “national hero.” [Source]

Macro Polo’s Holly He compiled some more reactions:

After a small group of protesters briefly occupied Hong Kong’s legislative chamber on July 1, some feared that they may have gone too far and risked dividing the protest movement. Many, though, felt that the radical action was understandable, citing graffiti left in the chamber that read “it was you who told me peaceful marches did not work.” 2014 protest leader Joshua Wong similarly argued in an extended thread on Twitter that “WE ALREADY TRIED EVERYTHING ELSE.”

This time, with violence directed at people instead of property, the consensus appears to have swung the other way. South China Morning Post’s Jeffie Lam, Sum Lok-kei, and Kimmy Chung reported on protesters’ apologies and explanations:

The statement – signed and issued by “a group of fellow Hongkongers longing for freedom and democracy” – said they felt heartbroken and helpless regarding the overreaction of some protesters on Tuesday, without referring to specific incidents.

[…] “Many Hongkongers are exhausted and have become paranoid after experiencing all these fears and injustice,” the statement read.

It said what the protesters did on Tuesday night was an “overreaction” resulting from chronic mental pressure and “provocation” at the scene.

Regarding their earlier actions – which saw thousands of travellers blocked from checking in, leaving many stranded in Hong Kong – the group offered their apologies and promised to reflect on their strategy.

[…] Protesters said they were forced to take their demonstration to the airport as it had become the final safe place for them to express their views. [Source]


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