Across Hong Kong, the tension between the protesters and the government has been getting worse, particularly after an upsurge in violent attacks on individuals, police and demonstrators alike. But in an especially violent and gruesome attack, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, the leader of one of Hong Kong's biggest organizers of non-violent demonstrators was brutalized early Thursday by a group of thugs. The attackers reportedly used hammers and wrenches to beat Sham - who was photographed lying in a pool of his own blood on Arran Street in Mong Kak at around 7:40 pm Hong Kong time.
It was the second attack on Sham in two months.
Sham was the leader of Civil Human Rights Front, one of the larger groups that has emerged to organize non-violent pro-democracy demonstrations. The organization told the press that Sham was conscious and in stable condition when he arrived at the hospital. Police said he was bleeding from his head and arms when officers found him.
The suspects were described as "four non-ethnic Chinese assailants". They reportedly fled in a getaway car. Officers are looking for the car and the attackers, but so far, no suspects have been apprehended. A witness to the crime reportedly said bystanders tried to intervene, but the attackers threatened them with knives.
The Human Rights Front condemned the attack, saying it would feed fears of a "white terror" in Hong Kong (which was probably the intention).
Sham was on his way to a meeting about a rally that the group has organized which is scheduled for Sunday. Other senior members of Sham's group told the press that the rally would proceed as planned.
According to SCMP, Sham of his assistants were confronted by two masked assailants wielding baseball bats and a rod about two months ago. The two weren't badly beaten - the confrontation appeared to be an attempt to intimidate Sham right after police had declared one his upcoming rallies "banned" - but it marked an escalation in the tactics being used to intimate demonstrators, as many speculated that the thugs were part of a group backed by the mainland government.
Since August, at least nine pro-democracy figures have been attacked, including Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu. Meanwhile, offices of pro-establishment politicians have been trashed by angry protesters. Violence appears to be escalating on both sides.
The government condemned the attack on Sham. The city's No. 2 official said the attack was "totally unacceptable" while pro-democracy lawmakers said it was an attempt to intimated citizens and protesters alike, according to SCMP.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government "attached great attention" to the attack on Sham.
"All kinds of violence, no matter what the scale, are unacceptable," he said during a radio show, noting that the police would bring the attackers to justice.
Sham had been on his way to the annual general meeting of his organization when he was attacked. In a Facebook post published Thursday, Sham said his wounds had been attended to, and that he was able to get around in a wheel chair. He expressed gratitude to police who responded to the attack and all of his supporters, medical staff and others who helped.