HONG KONG: A group of masked men, many wielding sticks and dressed in white clothes, attacked anti-government protesters and commuters inside a Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station on Sunday night (Jul 21).
At the station in the New Territories district of Yuen Long, screams rang out as protesters who had attended a demonstration earlier in the day were attacked by men in white T-shirts, some armed with poles, as they arrived home.
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The attack has ratcheted up fears that the city's feared triad gangs are wading into the political conflict.
Sunday evening's coordinated assault took place in a district in the city's New Territories near the Chinese border where the criminal gangs remain influential.
Footage showed the men attacking protesters on the platform and inside trains.
A live Facebook broadcast by local news outlet Stand News showed the men charging into a crowd of protesters in Yuen Long, a district in the city's northwest, close to the border with China.
The female reporter who was broadcasting Stand News' footage was one of those attacked as she was knocked to the ground and kicked multiple times.
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Lam Cheuk Ting, a Hong Kong opposition lawmaker, live-streamed the scene at Yuen Long MTR station on Facebook.
In the video, people clad in white could be seen violently facing off with black-clad protesters.
Blood could be seen on the station's floor, along with broken batons and debris.
The violence then spread onto a crowded train at a platform, with the people in white seen boarding the train and attacking those on board with sticks and batons and throwing items at them from the platform.
Similar assaults by pro-government vigilantes took place against demonstrators during the 2014 "Umbrella Movement" protests.
The incident at Yuen Long came after tens of thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Hong Kong - the seventh weekend in a row that residents have come out en masse amid anger over a controversial extradition Bill.
Late in the evening, thousands defied police orders and marched beyond the official end-point of the rally as they made their way toward the Liaison Office, in a direct challenge to authorities in Beijing.
Some protesters pelted eggs at the walls of the office, while others spray-painted graffiti.
Responding to the "violent acts" in Sheung Wan and Yuen Long, the Hong Kong government issued a statement condemning the violence.
"Following the storming of the CPGLO (Central People's Government Liaison Office) building, some radical protesters initiated a series of violent acts in Sheung Wan area, despite repeated warnings by the police," said the statement. "These outrageous, violent acts included hurling petrol bombs, setting fires and throwing bricks. Thoroughfares were also blocked.
"Meanwhile in Yuen Long, some people congregated at the platforms of the MTR station and train compartments, attacking commuters," said the statement. "It led to confrontations and injuries."
It added: "This is absolutely unacceptable to Hong Kong as a society that observes the rule of law. The SAR government strongly condemns any violence and will seriously take enforcement actions."
The police similarly condemned the incidents, adding that some police officers were injured in the Sheung Wan incident and that protesters had charged police lines and hurled bricks, smoke grenades, petrol bombs and had set fires.
"Meanwhile, assault cases also happened in Yuen Long. Some people attacked commuters at the platforms of the Yuen Long MTR station and train compartments, resulting in multiple injuries," said the police statement published on the Hong Kong government's website.
The city has seen millions turn out in protest over the past months, demonstrating against an extradition Bill to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has apologised for the turmoil the extradition Bill has caused and declared it "dead". Opponents of the Bill, which they fear could be used to silence dissent, say nothing short of its withdrawal will do.
China has condemned the violent protests as an "undisguised challenge" to the one country, two systems formula.