As protests continue to roil Hong Kong, a recent mob attack on demonstrators has drawn public scrutiny over the role of local native-place associations.
On Aug. 5 evening, dozens of attackers descended onto protesters who were gathered in the North Point district, on the eastern side of Causeway Bay. The mob carried long sticks and knives, according to eyewitness accounts.
For months, protesters have continually called for a controversial extradition bill to be withdrawn from the city’s legislature, amid fears that the proposal would leave people vulnerable to being extradited to mainland China and face the Chinese regime’s opaque legal system.
That day, they had gathered in the area as part of a series of day-long demonstrations across the city, including a general strike and rallies.
Because the protesters outnumbered the attackers, they quickly left.
On Aug. 11, attackers again appeared in the North Point area, targeting crowds of protesters.
As to who was behind the attack, media reports and recent social media posts have pointed to a group of fraternity associations for people who originally immigrated to Hong Kong from southern China’s Fujian Province—colloquially as the “Fujian Gang.”
Though they serve as community organizations, it is an open secret among locals that these groups also engage in gang activity.
North Point is known as the base for the “Fujian Gang.” Many local media outlets and residents suspected that the recent attacks were their doing.
3,000 Yuan for One Battle
But since Aug. 6, online evidence has surfaced.
In recent days, social media posts from people who self-proclaim to be staff at the Hong Kong Fujian fraternity associations have appeared, announcing that they are seeking to recruit Fujianese residents—to travel to Hong Kong and attack at future protests.
According to the posts, the recruitment notice stated that 500 strong men were needed to “protect” Hong Kong. To encourage Fujianese residents to travel to Hong Kong, the associations said it would pay 3,000 yuan (around $425) to each person who “fights a battle at the front lines.” Those who act as backup would be paid 1,500 yuan (around $212) for each attack.
Members would also be afforded accommodations at the Hong Kong Sheraton Hotel and the Shangri-La Hotel, along with meals.
On the popular messaging app WeChat, a chat group with 165 members from Fujian Province circulated information about three buses that were waiting for the men at 3:00 a.m. on Aug. 6 to go to Hong Kong, and to meet at the highway bridge in Shuitou Town of Quanzhou City, located on the eastern side of Fujian.
In another WeChat group for Fujianese people, which totals 500 members, some shared that they took three buses to Hong Kong, departing from Hai’an Town of Longyan City, and Jinjing Town of Jinjiang City.
Hong Kong and Taiwanese media outlets reported on Aug. 8 that Hong Kong police has arranged for more presence to patrol North Point since Aug. 6. In addition, on the evening of Aug. 6, police raided the base of an unnamed local association and confiscated piles of long sticks, similar to the ones attackers used on Aug. 5, according to local media.
On Aug. 11, a mob again appeared at North Point, beating protesters with different implements. Three journalists at the scene were also injured in the melee, according to local media reports.
As of press time, Hong Kong police have not arrested or prosecuted any suspects in relation to the North Point attacks.
In fact, Coronet Court and Majestic Apartments, two private residential buildings in North Point, posted notices days prior to the Aug. 11 attack warning their residents that local police have said there will be an incident at North Point that day. The notices were published onto Facebook, some as early as Aug. 1.
The notice by Coronet Court stated: “For the families that have elderly and children, please avoid leaving your homes [on Aug. 11] in order to ensure your safety.”
In the notice published by Majestic Apartments, the administration team warned: “Everybody, please pay attention to your safety!
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Next Magazine reported on Aug. 7, citing anonymous insiders, that the Fujian Gang has teamed up with a local triad that has 14,000 members. The triad would send their members to assist the Fujian Gang in attacking protesters on Aug. 11, according to the report.
Protesters had applied with police to organize a parade route from Victoria Park at Causeway Bay to Java Road at North Point.
Citing security concerns, police had rejected the application on Aug. 9. But protesters showed up in the area that day nonetheless.
Chinese Regime’s Purpose
In recent days, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has also hinted at the suggestion that protests be quelled by forces other than police.
The CCP’s mouthpiece People’s Daily commented on Aug. 5: “To stop the violence effectively, we can’t rely on Hong Kong police solely. All Hongkongers should take action against the violence and resist the violence.”
Then, at an Aug. 7 seminar in Shenzhen City, which borders Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing’s top agency for handling Hong Kong affairs, told a room full of political representatives: “Hong Kong people should actively stand up… unite and fight resolutely.”
U.S.-based commentator Tang Jingyuan analyzed that this kind of rhetoric hints at the “Chinese government delivering information encouraging the Fujian Gang and other gangsters to fight with protesters,” Tang told the Chinese-language Epoch Times on Aug. 8.
Tang further predicted that if clashes get out of control, the Chinese regime would have an excuse to send troops to suppress the protests.