Amnesty International claims Hong Kong police failed to protect hundreds of peaceful protesters

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong came under attack from unidentified mobs, who tore down encampments and assaulted the largely peaceful movement in a series of running brawls yesterday.

Amnesty International claimed Hong Kong police had failed to protect hundreds of demonstrators, alleging women and girls were the targets of sexual assaults and intimidation from counter-protesters.

This morning Hong Kong police announced they had arrested 19 individuals, some believed to have organised crime links, in connection with the attacks.

Last night Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said: “The police inaction tonight is shameful. The authorities have failed in their duty to protect peaceful protesters who came under attack”.

“There has been a heavy police presence during the past week, but their failure tonight risks fuelling an increasingly volatile situation.”

Protest leaders claimed the attackers were pro-government gangs, according to The New York Times, and several groups have called off planned negotiations with the government in response.

At least 18 people, including six police officers, were injured during the confrontations in the predominantly blue-collar neighbourhood of Mong Kok, across Victoria Harbour from the activists’ main camp.

Senior Superintendent Patrick Kwok Pak-chung said that eight out the 19 men arrested are believed to have backgrounds involving triads, or organized crime gangs. Those arrested face charges of unlawful assembly, fighting in public and assault, he added.

“Many people are gathering here and they are very determined to unite against the triad members,” said Amy Ho, 21, who was studying translation at university.

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The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the groups leading the demonstration which saw thousands take to the streets last week, defended its decision to cancel talks with the government.

“The government is demanding the streets be cleared. We call upon all Hong Kong people to immediately come to protect our positions and fight to the end,” the group said in a statement.

Crowds of residents, tired of the disruption to their neighbourhood, also allegedly jeered the demonstrators as they were attacked.

Jones Lam, 63, explained why he was against the demonstration to the New York Times: “They blocked the road,” he said of the protesters. “They blocked the people going to work.”

The standoff is the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority since it took over the former British colony in 1997.

The protesters have been in the streets since 26 September, pledging to preserve Hong Kong’s Western-style legal system and civil liberties.

They want the Chinese government to reverse a decision requiring all candidates in the first election for Hong Kong’s leader in 2017 to be approved by a mostly pro-Beijing committee. The demonstrators want open nominations.

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