Hundreds of anti-extradition protesters staged a sit-in on Wednesday at a suburban rail station in Yuen Long district, where triad gangs attacked passengers one month ago, facing down riot police after showing footage of the violence to passers-by.
The protesters, many of whom wore black, said they wanted to draw attention to a lack of progress by police in investigating the attack, which left dozens of protesters and passers-by in hospital.
The protesters observed a moment of silence, then covered their right eyes, a reference to a woman who suffered a severe eye injury, likely from a rubber bullet that was found near her after she fell.
Chanting: "Meet the five demands! Don't leave a single one out!" the protesters also took issue with the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corp. for not doing enough to protect passengers using its services, especially from tear gas fired by police.
As police in full riot gear moved to encircle the station later in the evening, protesters barricaded themselves into the station, filling it with fire extinguisher powder and shining laser pointers at police from behind the barricades.
A protester surnamed Lai at a linked demonstration in Kowloon Tong station said he had taken part at that station instead.
"Today happens to be exactly one month since the attack on MTR passengers by the white shirts in Yuen Long," Lai told RFA. "The other purpose of this action on the MTR today is [to ask whether] the MTR has an obligation to protect the safety of their passengers and employees."
The anti-extradition protests that have gripped the city since early June are making five key demands of the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections. Police have been widely criticized over the July 21 bloody attacks by men with links to triad criminal gangs.
Thugs in white T-shirts
The vicious attacks were carried out by unidentified thugs in white T-shirts wielding wooden and metal poles, many of whom were later revealed to have ties to Hong Kong's criminal underworld of triads, and who are believed to have been recruited by pro-Beijing groups to intimidate anti-extradition and pro-democracy protesters.
They came just hours after anti-extradition protesters had defaced the emblem of the People's Republic of China outside Beijing's Central Liaison Office following an anti extradition march of half a million people.
Photos were posted on social media sites at the time showing police wearing full riot gear strolling next to some men in white T-shirts, adding fuel to fears that the men had been hired to strike fear into political protesters and that police had colluded with the attacks.
The collusion theory was also underpinned by unanswered questions over why it took police who arrived in at Yuen Long's suburban line railway station more than an hour to intervene, during which time the attackers continued to attack passengers and passers-by.
Police said they arrested 28 people in connection with the attacks, but that nobody has yet been prosecuted.
"This case is currently at the stage of discussing evidence and appropriate charges with the department of justice," Organised Crimes and Triad Bureau (OCTB) spokesman Lee Kui-wah told reporters.
Meanwhile, a 50-year-old man has been arrested following a knife attack on three people at a Lennon Wall protest site in Tseung Kwan O earlier this week.
'The amendments are dead'
The man, who holds a Hong Kong ID card, was arrested at a border checkpoint in Lo Wu as he re-entered Hong Kong after fleeing to the mainland.
A 26-year-old reporter who had been working for the Hong Kong Economic Journal remained in critical condition at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, with injuries to her arm, shoulder and back, the paper reported.
Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam on Wednesday tried to reassure the public that the government's planned amendments to the city's extradition laws that would allow the rendition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland Chinese courts would not be resuscitated.
"I can make a very clear political commitment," Lam said. "The amendments are dead. Especially in view of the public's concerns, the Hong Kong government has no plans to restart the amendments."
Lam has also invited a group of public figures to start talks on how to build a public platform for dialogue, although the anti-extradition movement has rejected any move towards dialogue until the government meets its demands.
"I saw that a great many people came out in protest on Sunday," she said in a reference to a crowd that was estimated at 1.7 million.
"It was generally a peaceful gathering ... We are very willing to communicate with people from all walks of life and anyone acting in good faith, hoping to ease the relationship between the government and the public ... and to find a solution for Hong Kong," Lam said.
Around 20 to 30 people have been invited to meet with Lam on Saturday, including former chief secretary Henry Tang, ex-transport chief Anthony Cheung, former Legco president Tsang Yok-sing, Cardinal John Tong, and university heads Stephen Cheung and Ronald Chin, RTHK reported.
But a group that runs the anti-extradition movement press conferences ruled out the possibility of participating.
"Considering Carrie Lam’s track record is really bad, we would never have a dialogue with her," spokesman Winston Yau told reporters.
"This is a leaderless and faceless movement. This is de-centralized. That’s the reason that we don’t want any leaders, because we don’t want anyone to be arrested," Yau said.
Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Zheng Chongsheng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.