A universal suffrage forum organised by a pro-democracy group had to be abandoned yesterday after dozens of government supporters turned up and hurled abuse at participants.
The forum, at City University, descended into chaos shortly after the first speaker, lawmaker Charles Mok, began his address.
About 30 government supporters shouted and swore at Mok, with one of them calling him a "British dog".
Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy, which organised the forum, called a temporary halt to the event. But when it resumed a short time later, so did the abuse - with Democratic Party vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong subjected to a middle-finger gesture, and asked why he didn't "bring a gun and try to take his arguing to Beijing" instead of making a lot of noise in Hong Kong.
Cheng eventually called the whole thing off, before three lawmakers even had the chance to give their scheduled speeches.
Cheng said the chaos was not unexpected. He said the effort to disrupt the forum came from "the state machine", which aimed to aggressively shut down any interest in pursuing democracy in Hong Kong.
"We anticipate further challenges and continued, belligerent efforts to trash our campaign," Cheng said. "We understand that as we get closer to our objective, these pressures will only escalate.
"We are facing a tremendously powerful state machine," he said, adding that the alliance did not have the "slightest intention" of giving up its campaign for universal suffrage in 2017.
Chan Kong-man, who is connected with the pro-government Voice of Loving Hong Kong, said the group "regretted" Cheng's disregard of their request to provide it with details of the forum rundown. Chan was one of the 30 people who disrupted the event. The group is organised via Facebook and openly supports Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Asked why no officers had been dispatched after the organiser requested assistance, police said that the university's security guards were responsible for keeping order, not police, as the forum was held on campus.
Anyone acting in a "disorderly manner" for the purpose of disrupting a public gathering can be held criminally liable under the Public Order Ordinance.