Hong Kong: Gruesome video of man set on fire marks escalation in violence
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In a shocking incident caught on camera, a Hong Kong protester doused a man with flammable liquid and set him on fire on November 11. The man, who survived his wounds, was allegedly attacked during an altercation with protestors in the Ma On Shan neighborhood, about 20 kilometres north of the city centre. Our Observer on the ground says that there has been an escalation in violence over the past few days from both police and protesters.
WARNING: READERS MAY FIND SOME OF THE FOLLOWING IMAGES SHOCKING
On Monday afternoon, a group of protesters began arguing with a 57-year-old man wearing a green T-shirt. Suddenly, as shown in the videos below, an unidentified man from the group doused the man in green with flammable liquid and set him on fire.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team decided to only post screengrabs of the two videos of the incident, due to their extremely violent nature.
These screengrabs were taken from a video showing an unidentified protester dousing the man in green in flammable liquid. The protester then holds a lighter up to his chest and ignites it. The man in green catches fire and moves back, fighting against it.
According to local news site HK01, the incident took place on a walkway that links the Bayshore Towers housing complex with the Ma On Shan Municipal Library in the Ma On Shan neighbourhood.
The FRANCE 24 Observers found the walkway in question on Google Maps and it is definitely the location shown in the video. Its unique style is recognisable, as are the buildings behind it.
The red dot shows where the first video was filmed (coordinates: 22.425908, 114.231213).
A second video shows the same scene filmed from another angle. Protesters can be seen either taking part in the altercation or filming. The assailant's figure is also visible, although he isn’t identifiable.
These screen grabs, taken from the second video, show the group of protestors who had an altercation with the man in a green shirt.
Victim burned on almost a third of his body
Later that evening, police identified the victim as Leung Chi-cheung, a 57-year-old father of two daughters. According to the South China Morning Post, Leung, who works in construction, was at the Ma On Shan station at about noon, during lunchtime rush hour, when he saw a group of protesters defacing buildings. He chased the protesters from the station to the walkway.
During the chase, the man seems to have been injured. The first video shows him nursing a wound on his face.
The image on the left shows the man in the blue helmet cleaning up Leung’s wounds.
That’s where the altercation began.
"You aren’t Chinese," Leung allegedly told the protesters, according to local media reports.
"We’re from Hong Kong," they allegedly replied.
After the videos showing the man being set alight were posted online, some activists posted another video showing what happened just before that incident.
This is the prelude. The old man attacking protestors. pic.twitter.com/mHM04Wo3FgRex (@rexshum) November 11, 2019
These photos were posted on the news site HK01.
Soon after, more photos appeared online which showed Leung standing shirtless and conscious in Ma On Shan station, presumably shortly after he was set on fire. These images stirred up skepticism and speculation online that the whole incident had been staged. Hospital authorities in Hong Kong, however, confirmed that the man had indeed been hospitalised.
According to the police, Leung was conscious when he was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin. He was in critical condition when he was admitted into intensive care. According to the paramedics, he had second-degree burns on 28% of his body, which were mainly concentrated on his arms and chest.
Authorities in Hong Kong opened an investigation into the incident to determine whether this constitutes attempted murder. Police officers from the Bureau of Commercial Crime are also tracking down the protesters. According to the South China Morning Post, no suspects had been arrested as of Monday night.
Violence and vandalism
Over the past few days, other videos showing Hong Kong protesters resorting to destructive measures, albeit less extreme, have been circulating online. Milder examples include videos of protesters vandalising subway stations after some protesters accused the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), which runs the Hong Kong subway, of being complicit with the government and the police.
So tonight @ezracheungtoto and I went out to Tin Shui Wai, expecting a round two after confrontations there earlier in the day. Instead we got a pack of maybe 100 young protesters who wandered the neighborhood vandalizing all things MTR for 3 hours. pic.twitter.com/ZtIeCjljPePaul Mozur 孟建国 (@paulmozur) November 11, 2019
In a series of tweets, this New York Times journalist shows how protesters vandalised property belonging to the Mass Transit Railway (MTR).
A protester just came down the street w a chainsaw revving, walking toward where police are stationed— a group of protesters stopped him, convinced him to put it down, turn it off and encircled him in a huge hug pic.twitter.com/FNdUQ454yjRosalind Adams (@RosalindZAdams) November 12, 2019
In the video above published on Twitter by journalist Rosalind Adams, a protester walks towards a group of police while carrying a chainsaw.
Another video posted on November 12 shows a protester walking towards a group of police carrying a chainsaw. A few moments later, a group of his fellow protesters convince him to turn it off and set it on the ground.
"These measures only target the subway and pro-Beijing businesses"Ines K., a 26-year-old designer from Hong Kong, has been regularly participating in the protests. She spoke to the FRANCE 24 Observers about this escalation in violence amongst protesters.
After so many days of protest, the demonstrators are more likely to try to defend themselves or resort to violence, but only if they are attacked first. Last month, a pro-Beijing assailant attacked pro-democracy protesters with a knife near the Lennon Wall [Editor’s note: Lennon’s Wall is a tunnel that protesters use as a space for artistic and political expression].
Over the past few months, protesters have been attacked by numerous groups and triads [Editor’s note: gangs of armed men that are thought to be pro-Beijing]. We’ve always insisted that the protests remain peaceful but now that we are in the fifth month of protests, we are going to fight back to defend ourselves.
"Plans haven't been made to avenge Monday's attack"
On November 11, an incident involving a Hong Kong police officer made headlines. The officer fired point-blank at a protester, even though he wasn’t posing any particular threat. Our Observer doesn’t think there will be consequences for the officer:
"We've spoken about all of these incidents involving protesters and I don't think plans have been made to avenge Monday's attack. I can see how people would think badly of these acts of vandalism, but I have to say that protesters only targeted the MTR and pro-Beijing businesses, like businesses from the Maxim’s group, which includes Starbucks.
"The head of the subway system works with the government to silence protestors' voices"
The head of the subway system has betrayed us on numerous occasions. During the attack in Yuen Long on July 21 and the attack in Prince Edward on August 31, the MTR didn’t take into consideration the security of passengers and let the police and gangsters attack civilians inside subway stations.
Moreover, the MTR worked with the government to shut down stations and sometimes whole subway lines on days of protest, as if to silence protesters' voices. They’ve also closed stations in the middle of the day and prevented protestors from getting home, which led to violent confrontations with the police. It’s like the MTR stations have become satellite police stations, which charter special trains for riot police. That’s why protesters vandalised these structures.