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  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 10:29am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Who let the thugs out in Hong Kong politics?

Stephen Vines sees organised violence against pro-democracy protesters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 August, 2013, 2:52am

Dangerous and ominous developments are occurring in Hong Kong politics, yet not a single senior official has cared to comment on them. They have, though, had a great deal to say about disruption that might be caused during an event which may not occur next year.

Not for the first time, but with greater swagger and clearer evidence of organisation, a bunch of thugs, including triad-linked gangsters, were sent to "deal with" anti-government protesters at the chief executive's public forum in Tin Shui Wai last Sunday.

In case there is a scintilla of doubt as to their intention, Tsang Shu-wo, one of the rural chieftains, proudly admitted that he had mobilised 40 villagers for this event and later said: "It is normal to have bloodshed if we are protecting Yuen Long. Let's see who will shed more blood."

At the demonstration itself, the thugs demanded that the police cease hampering their activities because they were "protecting the government". Fortunately, they were largely ignored and arrests were made, but anyone looking at the many videos of this event will note that the police also stood back while anti-government protesters were attacked. These videos also show it was far from being a spontaneous protest, as those giving the orders were not subtle enough to avoid the cameras.

This is not an isolated incident; I have witnessed an intimidating group of "protesters" outside Broadcasting House who got very angry when, in the spirit of journalism, I asked them what they were protesting about.

There is nothing new about authoritarian governments using gangs to intimidate 

There is nothing new about authoritarian governments using gangs of thugs to intimidate opponents. It was a favoured tactic of the former Kuomintang dictatorship in Taiwan before democracy took hold. Today, it is the hallmark of Robert Mugabe's thuggish government in Zimbabwe; and so on. While these governments sit back and allow the thugs to do their work for them, they have the gall to blame their opponents for the violence.

Does this sound familiar? Barely a day passes without officials and their supporters warning of the potential for violence in the plans to occupy Central, even though the rather mild-mannered organisers are at pains to stress their non-violent stance. It is quite conceivable that thugs could be mobilised to bring violence to this event, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Meanwhile, history is being avidly rewritten as comparisons are drawn between the violence of the 1960s Cultural Revolution spillover in Hong Kong and Occupy Central. One person in a very good position to know the truth of this matter is Tsang Tak-sing, the home affairs secretary, who was jailed during this period (on dubious grounds) alongside numerous other Communist youngsters. Nowadays, these same people are pillars of the establishment and want to paint today's opposition members in the blood-red colours of their past.

More ominously, we see Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying acting as accuser-in-chief by singling out a teacher for a special inquiry over her role in a demonstration where she was seen hot-temperedly swearing at the police for failing to act when Falun Gong activists were being attacked.

Leung, apparently, sees this as a more pressing matter than looking into teachers who have sexually abused pupils or encouraged cheating in exams.

I have been loath to jump to the conclusion that there is an attempt to turn Hong Kong politics in a more violent direction but the evidence is increasingly pointing in that direction.

Fortunately, we have not yet reached the tipping point where thugs hold sway and they are licensed by the government to do their worst - indeed, many frontline police officers are doing their best to prevent this. However, the signs should not be ignored.

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur


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This article is now closed to comments

Dai Muff
If you can't tell the difference between paid triad thugs and over enthusiastic protesters you exist in a moral vacuum. It is ironic how much you hate swearing teachers but support actually violent triads. The government says it has no triad connections, and its supporters like you say "Why shouldn't it?" Nice one.
Who are the radical protesters? The ones who want to be able to choose who governs them or the thugs of the Heung Yee **** who only want to line their lazy, crooked, triad pockets from an outdated small house policy which is riddled with corruption and in which government is deep in collusion? The Pan democrats are mostly educated, moderate people, loyal to China who would not be protesting at all if the government was honest, transparent and accountable, which it isn't. Nor can it pretend to represent the people unless it gives them a voice in selecting and deselecting their leaders.
Wherever one looks in the world, corrupt regimes ultimately fall back on force and violence.
I am waiting for the HK equivalent of the Reichstag Fire.
hard times !
fully agree that there is nothing new for an authoritarian government to make use of gangs to intimidate any protesters.Is our Leung administration an authoritarian one ? Possibly it is since he was only elected by 689 votes from an Election Committee formed by less than 1200 people in town ! How can he represent the majority of people here in Hong Kong ? Not to say safeguard their interests and rights ? The day after his meet-the-people session in Kwun Tong,Leung will go abroad to enjoy his 4th leave within a year---------this time lasts 11 days (maybe to Britain to reunite with his grown-up children there where his wife has recently bought another house !) Yet we Hongkongers still have trust on our cops whose main job is to maintain law and order and should never kow-tou to gangs (like those 14 K and Sun Yee Long in Yuen Long !) The culprits who beat up protesters last Sunday (11 th August) should be duly arrested and charged.As Sir Donald Tsang once said in the Legco chamber, Hong Kong is not a triad society ! Now we even can't tolerate a primary school teacher's foul language used in a public place during her summer holiday ! How about the gangsters in town, can we tolerate them and their intimidative words against pan-democratic camp protesters ? Of course not !
"the police also stood back while anti-government protesters were attacked". After suffering years of insults, verbal and physical abuse and vindictive behaviour with no course of redress, what did protestors expect?
Dai Muff
Expected the police to uphold law and order. And if that is too much to expect don't be surprised if the public turns against the police.
Another Social Critics...
Answer is that 'CY' & Its Related Group...DisGrace & Shameless...!!!
Seeing now HK's Politics being Manipulated in such kind of Pro-Government's Team, yet Paid & Employed for.........In such a Lowest Quality Profile...!!!
Should be No Suprising it's Line-Up with that 'CY' & Its Related Group...
Poorest & Lowest Quality in Nature that Should be Dismissed Immediately by Central China Government...
Au Man Lun(Ex-Macau Official)Incident of Corruption...Fully Applied to Paul Chan...
BoXiLai's Incident of Prosecution...Fully Applied to that 'CY'...
Only More Informers are Needed...
Central China Government Do HK's Peoples....GOOD!!!
Another Great Achievement for HK's Good-Sake... BRAVO!!!
Dai Muff
It is fascinating how the SCMP makes this article so hard to find on its site.
Dai Muff
"Daniel" I love your comments, because you show the Hong Kong people exactly what the mindset of certain sectors of the pro-Beijing/pro-government group is. You serve as a superb warning. You will try to crucify a teacher for saying WTF against favouritism extended to the YCA mainland-backed bullies and then approve of using triads against pro-democracy legislators. WTF indeed,
The pro-government thugs will be donated brown shirts by the Liaison Office next; and by the way, the triads already have a foothold in the Executive Council.
The Pan-Democrats worship America and England....
Radical protesters have to be dealt this way. They always ask for it. This is an interesting trend that violent gangsters show up to cope with the radical parties. If radical parties resorting to violence to police and government officals can be justified, why not the gangsters who want to support the government? our society accept different voices, including radical protesters, so-called himself/herself "lawmakers or lawyers", gangsters, etc.
protestors advocating democracy which they were promised by the government deserve to be "dealt with this way". our society accepts the views of criminals? what are you smoking you f-cking crackhead.
“Authoritarian governments using gangs of thugs to intimidate”?
The more effective governments have achieved domestic pacification and moved offshore
BW is the most powerful gang and Nisour Square its recent publication
Yes, gangs work not only on streets but also in publications
A lot of samples here, propaganda works that get paid double
The police can be trusted to take care of gangs but what about foreign agents?
Open info activists should work for public disclosure of registered foreign agents
While a worthwhile social sport in this concrete jungle,
hunting secret agents shouldn’t be too challenging
I’m pro bono
You fight thugs with thugs. You have a better chance that way.


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