In what may well be a new low, even for an unapologetic fount of controversy like Junius Ho, the pro-Beijing lawmaker was caught on camera last night praising and shaking hands with white-clad men who took part in savagely beating protesters, passengers, and journalists inside the Yuen Long MTR station.
Videos from last night show Ho applauding the white shirt-wearing men — some of them carrying the same rods used to attack people inside the station — giving them a thumbs-up, and saying “thanks for your hard work!”
It was unclear whether the encounter between Ho and the men took place before or after the melee, but social media sleuths were quick to identify some of the men photographed with Ho as the same ones who took part in the brutal violence at Yuen Long, prompting some to wonder whether the controversial politician had a hand in orchestrating the attacks.
The attacks at Yuen Long were shocking for their outright savagery, and notable for the conspicuous absence of police.
RTHK reported that division commander Li Hon-man, who eventually arrived at the scene, was dismissive of reporters’ questions as to why the response took so long, sarcastically saying he hadn’t had the opportunity to look at his watch.
Ho later denied any involvement in the attacks in a Facebook post — titled, tellingly, “Condemn the CHRF protest” — saying that he was merely passing by the area after dinner when a group of people who appreciated his efforts to “support the police” asked for pictures with him.
He went on to insinuate that he was being unfairly singled out, asking why reporters had questioned his association with the Yuen Long attackers, but didn’t extend the same treatment to his colleagues across the aisle.
“Have you ever asked pro-dem lawmakers why they always cover the violence of the black shirts?” he asked, referring to the often black-clad anti-government protesters who have repeatedly taken to the streets in recent weeks.
He also criticized pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who was injured in the chaos, for “showing up in Yuen Long in sensitive moments.”
“He doesn’t even live here, why would he come here at midnight?” he asked. In a short video posted by Ho of a livestream of Lam being treated, Ho can be heard saying, “It serves him right!”
In a later post, Ho maintained he didn’t condone violence, only to immediately undermine his own point by claiming the “black shirt guys” — i.e. protesters — had provoked the Yuen Long villagers first, saying they had planned to make trouble in Yuen Long and that the white-clad attackers had brought along bamboo sticks to “protect themselves.”
He added that he happened to walk past and see these “guards,” so he stopped to remind them to be careful and took some pictures with them.
Contrary to Ho’s claims, rather than calls for action in Yuen Long, warnings had actually circulated among protesters on the Reddit-like LIHKG forum telling protesters from the area not to wear black for fear of drawing the wrath of the stick-wielding thugs.
He then went on to condemn anti-government protesters for “stirr[ing] up violence and riots to disrupt Hong Kong’s society.”
“The CHRF are not trustworthy,” he added, referring to the Civil Human Rights Front, the organizers of the peaceful march that preceded last night’s clashes between protesters and police. “The police gave them this route, but they did not follow orders.”
In fact, the CHRF had called on participants in the march to disband at the agreed-upon endpoint, but were largely ignored.
Protest organizers tell marchers “This is the ending point of the protest. We did exactly what the police asked us to do. We announce we finish the protest here." They encouraged people to "be nice" if they planned to go further. #antiELAB #HongKong #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/Th92zYErOU
— Coconuts Hong Kong (@CoconutsHK) July 21, 2019
Ho then launched into a litany of statements that ran the gamut from controversial to downright baffling.
“It is very suitable for the police to not to show the IDs,” he claimed at one point, addressing a widespread concern that police were avoiding being reported for alleged cases of excessive force. “The rioters cover up themselves with masks and helmets, the police should avoid showing their identity too.”
Ho also appeared to trivialize the numerous allegations of journalists being attacked at protests, saying that Hong Kong Journalist Association reporter IDs are “a joke.”
“The reporters with IDs stir up trouble and protect the rioters,” he claimed, offering no evidence, and calling for an investigation into journalists’ policies.
Ho further muddied the waters in a bizarre press conference today in which he again denied having anything to do with the violence, and insisted that he “condemn[s] all kinds of crimes and violence,” while also referring to the perpetrators of the Yuen Long assault as “heroes.”
“Yuen Long people protect their homes,” he said. “I don’t call them ‘heroes’ just because of last night’s incident; I see their values as heroic.”
“Guarding your homeland is a very basic thing,” he added.
Asked whether it was acceptable for police to take so long to respond to the violence, Ho countered that police should instead reconsider allowing future anti-government protests.
Ho is no stranger to spreading unsubstantiated and often controversial viewpoints. Last week he circulated claims that foreign spies are seeking to make “Hong Kong the next Syria” in a post that he later took down. In 2017, meanwhile, he drew flak from his own camp for suggesting that pro-independence activists should be “killed without mercy.”
Ho wasn’t the only person espousing controversial rhetoric.
At a pro-establishment rally on Saturday, Arthur Shek, the vice president of Hong Kong Economic Times, gave a speech asking people to get bamboo canes and “beat the kids up” — describing almost perfectly what transpired a day later.
Shek said in his remarks that anti-government protesters “own many weapons, like umbrellas,” then asks the very receptive crowd whether they have canes, of the sort used to discipline a child.
Here's the Eng sub video of Arthur Shek, the vice president of #Hongkong Economic Times, gave a speech on caning protesters in July 20's pro-China/police rally. The Chinese communist propaganda regards HK people seeking democracy as "spoilt brats" that need to be caned. #China https://t.co/WGCmgFiFe8 pic.twitter.com/SpwOTBWJug
— Badcanto (@Badcanto) July 22, 2019
“Get your cane out, a longer one!” he goes on. “Beat the kids up!”
No cane, no problem, Shek appears to suggest, telling those who don’t keep around implements for beating their children to go instead to the local hardware store and “buy a 20-millimeter-thick pipe.”
“It must be made of plastic!” he cautions. “Buy the ones made of white PVC. It’s soft!”
Calling on the crowd to “discipline the children,” Shek adds, “caning the kids is teaching them, not violence.”