Attacks on Hong Kong protesters revive the city’s ‘triad’ reputation

By Aaron Tam, AFP

HONG KONG–Attacks by masked men on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters have shone an uncomfortable spotlight on the city’s pervasive and shadowy ��triad�� crime gangs, renewing accusations they are working in collusion with the government. Hong Kong is a city of gleaming skyscrapers that prides itself on being a vital regional financial hub renowned for its legal system, thriving port and adherence to international standards.

But the former British colony has never been able to shake off a darker side to its reputation, as a hotbed for organized Chinese criminal networks steeped in murky traditions and violent histories. A recent spate of attacks against protesters calling for unfettered elections has raised concerns among democracy activists that the city’s triad gangs �X who have largely remained aloof from the dirty world of politics �X are involving themselves in the ongoing debate over Hong Kong’s future.

The protesters have paralyzed parts of the city for more than two weeks, erecting barricades and occupying main thoroughfares in their bid to persuade Beijing to allow full democracy in the city.

On Monday, dozens of masked men launched a brazen assault on demonstrators, clashing in broad daylight with the unarmed, peaceful activists in chaotic scenes in front of a heavy media presence in the city center. Lawmakers and protest leaders were incensed that the men made their move shortly after police had carried out dawn operations to remove peripheral barricades in Admiralty district, one of the main protest sites.

��It seems that the police have duly removed some of the barricades to make way for the suspected triads to get through to the peaceful protesters,�� pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told AFP. Strong Denial

The police and the government were forced earlier this month to deny allegations that they were working with criminals after masked thugs attacked protesters at another demonstration camp in Mong Kok, a working-class district known for its triad gangs.