An anti-government assailant stabbed and wounded a pro-Beijing Hong Kong lawmaker who was election campaigning Wednesday, police said, in another escalation of violence surrounding the protests demanding political reforms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Junius Ho has become a hated figure by the protesters over his alleged links to violence against them. After receiving initial medical treatment, Ho told reporters the knife had been blocked by his rib cage and he was left with a minor 2-centimeter (0.79-inch) deep wound.
The government condemned the attack and said police arrested the assailant. Ho, two of his assistants and the attacker were all injured, hospital officials said.
A video circulating on social media showed a man giving flowers to Ho and asking permission to snap a picture with him. Instead, the man drew a knife from his bag and stabbed Ho’s chest, but was quickly overpowered by Ho and several others.
Ho has been targeted by anti-government protesters since July 21, when armed masked men violently attacked demonstrators and passengers at a subway station in northern Yuen Long, injuring 45 people.
That attack marked a dark turn in the protests that began in early June, and demonstrators have accused police of being slow to respond or even colluding with the attackers. Police later said members of triad gangs, a branch of organized crime, were involved. Ho was seen shaking hands with some of the attackers that night.
Ho, whose constituency includes Yuen Long, denied colluding with triads. He said he bumped into the men after dinner and thanked them for “defending their homes” but said he didn’t know about the violence until later.
Protesters have thrashed Ho’s office several times and desecrated his parents’ graves.
Ho was campaigning for Nov. 24 district elections to pick 452 councilors, a low-level poll held every four years but closely watched this year as a gauge of public sentiment at the time of prolonged protests that have hardened positions in both camps.
The seats are currently dominated by the pro-establishment bloc but the violence sparked concerns the polls may be postponed.
The city’s biggest pro-establishment party voiced renewed concerns over safety, saying there were 150 incidents of their candidates being harassed and their offices vandalized in the last month, local media reported.
Many have seen a now-shelved China extradition bill that had triggered the unrest as a sign of Beijing infringing on Hong Kong’s judicial freedoms and other rights guaranteed when the former British colony returned to China in 1997.
Apart from Ho, there have also been attacks on pro-democracy figures. A knife-wielding man bit off part of the ear of district councilor Andrew Chiu after earlier slashing two people on Sunday night. Jimmy Sham, a leader of one of the city’s largest pro-democracy group, was attacked by hammer-wielding assailants last month.