Hong Kong Reels After Attacks on Commuters, Shoppers by ‘White-Shirts’

Police in Hong Kong have made a further five arrests following Sunday'svicious attacks on Hong Kong commuters and shoppers by men wearing white shirts, amid growing calls for a public inquiry into suspected links tocriminal gangs and the Chinese government.

Police have now arrested a total of 11 men, but only on suspicion of"unlawful assembly." No-one has been arrested for assault or for carryingoffensive weapons, in spite of multiple video clips of men toting poles andbars in plain sight, with police officers present.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy lawmakers have written to the president of thecity's Legislative Council (LegCo), calling for a special meeting to discuss the attacks, as many shops in the vicinity of the attacks had remained closed in the wake of the attacks.

Claudia Mo, leader of the pro-democracy camp in LegCo, said there is anatmosphere of panic in the area around Yuen Long, with people afraid to goback there for fear of being targeted, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung has said the pro-democracy camp also plansto impeach pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, who has been widely blamed for whipping up a backlash of pro-China sentiment following weeks of largely peaceful anti-extradition protests, it said.

Pro-democracy lawmakers and protesters have hit out at the failure ofpolice to prevent the attacks in Yuen Long, and at the lack of arrests forviolent crimes, amid growing suspicion that the police were tacitly allowing them to go ahead.

A local resident surnamed Chan said Carrie Lam should bear responsibilityfor the impasse between her administration and protesters.

"I don't think radicalism is the solution, but we are in a stalemate rightnow, and nobody can come up with a new way forward, only their own way,"Chan said.

Carrie Lam urged to step down

A second resident surnamed Lam said Carrie Lam should resign, however.

"She has never understood, nor responded to, our five major demands," Lam said. "She refused to set up an independent inquiry to thoroughlyinvestigate the series of events that began on June 9 and the truth behindthem."

"I think that her way of doing things, lack of trust for, and indifference to the people are grounds enough for her to step down," he said.

In the wake of the attacks, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce on Monday called for the formal withdrawal of plans to allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland Chinese courts.

"The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce strongly condemns the violence yesterday and calls for a swift resolution to the current impasse that has polarized our community," the chamber said in a statement on its website.

"We respect the peaceful protesters on past weekends voicing theirconcerns, and we were humbled by their civility and respect for the law," it said, condemning the vandalizing of LegCo, police headquarters andBeijing's Central Liaison Office by "a small number" of anti-extraditionprotesters.

"Most recently, the horrific attacks on innocent people in Yuen Long, andextremely worrying development of people taking the law into their ownhands, have shocked and disgusted the people in Hong Kong," it said, andcalled on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to give in toprotesters' demands for the formal withdrawal of amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.

It also called on protesters to condemn acts of vandalism, and for acommission of inquiry to examine recent events independently from thegovernment.

Hong Kong Hotel Owners' Association executive director Michael Li predicted that further attacks could cause occupancy rates to fall by two or three percentage points, and could also spark a fall of up to 10 percent in house prices.

"We are having problems after each protest now, because they are beingreported all around the world," Li said. "There is a greater impact fromcountries ... like Japan and South Korea, who have safety concerns becausethey aren't familiar with Hong Kong."

"They have been psychologically affected by these news reports, especiallythe Japanese market, as well as the southeast Asian market," Li said. "Manygroups from Thailand have already canceled because of the situation."

Sales turnover dropping

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association (HKRMA) said sales turnover had dropped sharply since protests began on June 9.

"The unexpected store closures due to the protests not only led to salesloss, but also directly affected retail staff's take-home income," it said in a statement on its website.

"[We are concerned that] the incident will seriously impact Hong Kong'sinternational image as a safe and world-class tourist and shoppingdestination," it said.

"[We urge] the government to handle the situation swiftly," it said.

Pin Ho, editor of New York-based Chinese news magazine Mingjing News, said the Tuen Mun attacks showed clear signs of being premeditated andorganized, according to footage and photographs shared with him.

"Based on the photographs and footage I have right now, it's totally clearthat this was an organized operation," Ho said.

He said that triads had welcomed the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997 with the message: "Even the criminal underworld is patriotic."

"This meant that the triads wouldn't get involved in protection work whenChinese leaders were visiting, which meant that the triads became part ofthe Chinese Communist Party's network of vested interests," Ho said.

"There are links between the Chinese government and the triads, who feelthat they have some protection themselves," he said.

Party run on gangster principles

Pin Ho said the attackers in white shirts may or may not have been fullypaid-up members of criminal gangs.

"They also could just have been local residents, because local people thereare on the side of the Chinese government ever since they were granted some special [property] rights after Beijing authorized the Hong Kong government [to do this] after the handover in 1997," he said.

U.S.-based Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, who served two lengthy jailterms for proposing democracy as the "fifth modernization" in 1979, said itwas very common for the ruling party to forge alliances with criminal gangson its own turf.

"This has become very prevalent since the 1990s," Wei said. "Back when[jailed former Chongqing party secretary] Bo Xilai was going after criminalgangs in Chongqing, even a [high ranking official] in the police departmentwas protecting the gangs."

"The Chinese Communist Party is basically run along principles that arevery close to those of a criminal organization," Wei said. "It is definitely run like a mafia, because it's a dictatorship that doesn't do things in public; it likes to do them in darkness."

Pin Ho said the sheers numbers of people employed in law enforcement inmainland China made it even easier for officers to act like gang members.

"The local police have long been a faction of the local criminal gangs," hesaid.

Wei agreed, adding that many local officials also operate along similarlines, using criminal gangs.

"They have their own law that is outside the law, and so does the party," he said. "All of this stuff takes place outside of the law."

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