Home / Featured / Hong Kong protest today: Are crime gangs infiltrating protests? | World | News
Hong Kong protest today: Are crime gangs infiltrating protests? | World | News

Hong Kong protest today: Are crime gangs infiltrating protests? | World | News

Hong Kong has seen its biggest demonstrations in five years since the sit-in protests over proposed electoral reforms brought the city to a standstill. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong in June to voice their concern about China’s proposed extradition bill. On Sunday, over a month since the protests first began, dozens of masked men stormed a train station in Hong Kong assaulting people returning home with wooden sticks and metal rods. But are organised crime gangs involved in these attacks?

Tens of thousands of people marched in a seventh consecutive weekend of demonstrations over a now-suspended extradition bill.

Protesters first gathered to rally against China’s new extradition bill on June 9, which proposed to send suspects to mainland China to face trial.

Extradition in international law is the removal of one fugitive from one state to another under a prearranged agreement.

The groups of masked men attacked people at train stations and on trains in an area north of the city.

Hong Kong protest today: Are organised crime gangs involved in the recent brutal attacks? (Image: GETTY)

The unprovoked violence hospitalised 45 people and shocked the region after horrific video footage of the brutal assaults quickly spread.

Since the violent attacks there has been widespread speculation the attackers belonged to triads, also known as the Chinese mafia.

Triads refer to the organised criminal networks operating in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s triads are “very localised” mafia groups or organised crime syndicates based in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan and in countries with significant Chinese populations.

Hong Kong protest today: Hong Kong protests

Hong Kong protest today: Protesters wearing helmets and gas masks during the Hong Kong protests (Image: MIGUEL CANDELA/SOPA IMAGES/GETTY)

These organised crime gangs have their own set of established rules and rituals and usually run protection rackets, prostitution and petty drug dealings.

There are of two major types of triads: dark forces, which are loosely-organised groups, and black societies, which are more-mature criminal organisations.

The two distinguishing features between these two types are the ability to achieve illegal control over local markets, and receiving police protection.

Peng Wang’s The Chinese Mafia book investigates the ways in which local gangs offer quasi-law enforcement and private protection to local governments, corporations and individuals.

Hong Kong protest today: Ambulance

Hong Kong protest today: 45 people were injured in attacks possibly undertaken by crime gangs (Image: MIGUEL CANDELA/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY)

Mr Wang’s book also shows links between local gangs and police officers showing how the gangs form mutually-beneficial networks with police officers which enables the gangs to control illegal markets and sell protection to citizens and businesses.

There are several triads in Hong Kong, but the most notorious groups are the 14K, Sun Yee On and Wo Shing Wo triads.

A South China Morning Post article from 2017 estimated there might be as many as 100,000 triad members operating in the city, which has a population of 7.3 million.

According to the Hong Kong Police Force, in 2018 there were 1,715 triad-related crimes recorded, with the majority of recorded incidents related to wounding and serious assault.

Hong Kong protest today: Injured man

Hong Kong protest today: A man is injured as he tried to break a blockage of barricades (Image: IVAN ABREU/SOPA IMAGES/GETTY)

After the attacks on Sunday, there has been widespread speculation that the groups who attacked protesters, and others, were paid to do so.

It would not be the first time triads had been suspected of getting involved in peaceful protests.

Organised crime gangs are known to operate in Hong Kong’s outer areas and now fears have arisen that the groups are beginning to insert themselves into the Hong Kong extradition protests.

In 2014, the Umbrella protests saw tens of thousands take to the street to argue against proposed electoral reform changes.

Hong Kong protest today: Hong Kong protests

Hong Kong protest today: The Hong Kong protests first began in June over the extradition law (Image: ANTHONY KWAN/GETTY)

A few days into the protest, violence erupted at one of the working class district protest sites, Mong Kok, where pro-democracy protesters were assaulted while they removed tents and barriers they had set up.

After these assaults police said 19 of the people arrested had triad backgrounds.

The attacks on Sunday have been reported as similar to attacks in 2014 , however, deemed much more serious as uninvolved bystanders were also attacked.

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