Candidates in Hong Kong’s elections are getting knifed, beaten, and now bitten

A political candidate gets pepper-sprayed.
A political candidate gets pepper-sprayed.
Image: AP/Vincent Yu
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Every week, more names join the list of pro-democracy candidates in Hong Kong’s upcoming local elections who have been assaulted.

In a shocking incident yesterday evening (Nov. 3) a man reportedly slashed several people with a knife outside an upscale shopping mall before lunging at a pro-democracy district councilor, sinking his teeth into the politician’s ear and biting a large part of it off.  The councilor,  Andrew Chiu, who represents the nearby Tai Koo district and is also a member of the Democratic Party, was seen clinging on to the side of his face as he yelled, “Where has my ear gone?” After undergoing surgery, the ear has since been reattached, according to a lawmaker (link in Chinese).

The rising levels of violence in Hong Kong come more than five months after the protest movement began, initially in opposition to a controversial extradition bill that has since been withdrawn. Both protesters and police have stepped up their use of force, while physical attacks on individuals have increased in frequency.

It was just the latest in a string of recent assaults on pro-democracy candidates running in district council elections, some of whom have emerged from Hong Kong’s protest movement, scheduled for Nov. 24. District councils elect people who typically focus on day-to-day neighborhood issues like bus service, trash collection, and improvements to public facilities. While district councilors aren’t lawmakers, the race carries political weight because whichever camp clinches the most seats will gain 117 votes in the 1,200-member election committee that selects the next chief executive.

A day earlier (Nov. 2), three district council candidates were subdued by police and subsequently arrested in Victoria Park, in a busy shopping area of the city, where they and dozens of other candidates had planned to hold separate election rallies of 50 or fewer people each in order to sidestep a police ban on a mass gathering. One of the candidates, Democratic Party member Richard Chan, was pepper-sprayed, pressed to the ground, and handcuffed. Osman Cheng, another candidate who is running as an independent but is part of a pro-democracy coalition, was also pepper-sprayed and arrested. A police officer reportedly accused Chan (link in Chinese) of both breaking and inciting others to break the law, saying to him, “Don’t think you can do anything just because you’re running for election.”

Other candidates have also been targeted in violent assaults. In October, pro-democracy activist Jimmy Sham, a leader with an organization that has called some of the summer’s biggest demonstrations, was attacked by a group of men wielding hammers and spanners. The incident came just weeks after he was attacked by men wielding a baseball bat and knife. And in late September,  Labour Party member and election candidate Stanley Ho was set upon by four men, leaving him with bone fractures in both hands and a deep head gashes that required stitches.

Two female candidates in their twenties have also been attacked, with Jocelyn Chau being punched in the head as she handed out election flyers, and Janelle Leung being hit while she waited to cross a road.