A public forum on political reform descended into chaos yesterday, with punches thrown and a student taken to hospital after members of a pro-Beijing group clashed with pan-democrats.
The forum, "Everything starts with universal suffrage", turned ugly soon after it began at 3pm, when a heated exchange erupted between guest speakers Joshua Wong Chi-fung, of student-led group Scholarism, and Chan Ching-sum, of pro-government group Caring Hong Kong Power. The event in Cheung Sha Wan was organised by the Association of Young Commentators.
Off the stage, supporters of the two sides were busy with verbal exchanges of their own over the proposed Occupy Central campaign, which is pressing for full democracy.
The situation escalated during the question-and-answer session, when a scuffle broke out between members of Caring Hong Kong Power and those of radical pan-democrat group People Power.
Scholarism member Oscar Lai Man-lok, 19, was taken to hospital after being kicked in the fracas. Police are looking for his attacker, a man thought to be aged 30 to 40. They were called to the scene to handle an assault case at about 5pm. No arrests were made.
One of the forum hosts, Dominic Lee Tsz-king, said he saw a Caring Hong Kong Power supporter kicking Lai. He added that he had been punched in the head himself several times.
With the forum in complete disarray, the organiser was forced to cut short the two-hour event by 30 minutes. Holden Chow Ho-ding, chairman of the association and the Young DAB, said he was disappointed and blamed Caring Hong Kong Power for the disorder, saying its members had not respected the forum rules.
Before the forum ended, guest speaker Dr Chan Kin-man, an Occupy Central organiser and Chinese University associate professor, said the "sieve theory" put forward by central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming would have no chance of being passed in the legislature and would end up fuelling conflict in society. Zhang last week used a sieve as a metaphor to push for a screening system in the selection process for the 2017 chief executive poll.
Chan Ching-sum, meanwhile, accused Occupy Central of holding a knife to Beijing's throat.