A man was arrested on Tuesday at a border checkpoint in Lo Wu, Hong Kong, after a knife attack on three people at a “Lennon Wall” in Tseung Kwan O left a journalist in critical condition.
After the attack at 1.30am, the 50-year-old male suspect, a Hong Kong resident, left for Shenzhen before daybreak, according to a police source, who added that officers were told the man was drunk at the time.
The suspect was arrested at about 3pm when he returned to the city. Authorities were still investigating why he came back to Hong Kong.
“An initial investigation showed his earnings could have been greatly affected by recent protests,” the source said without revealing the suspect’s occupation.
The man was suspected of stabbing his victims, two women aged 26 and 35, as well as a man, 24. Witnesses earlier said he acted after talking to the women and hearing their views on the anti-government protests rocking the city.
The 26-year-woman, a reporter with the Hong Kong Economic Journal, was left in a critical condition with wounds to her hands, left shoulder and back following the assault, while the other woman suffered injuries to her head. The third victim required seven stitches for a head wound and suffered cuts to his left arm.
The trio were treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, and at Tseung Kwan O Hospital, a spokeswoman for the Hospital Authority said.
According to police, the attack took place in a tunnel between Hau Tak Estate and Chung Ming Court in Tseung Kwan O.
In a video reportedly filmed during the attack, about four to five people were seen fleeing from the tunnel – which had recently been turned into a Lennon Wall, a place where colourful notes supporting the protests are posted – amid screams.
In the clip, a woman with blood on her arms was seen picking up her backpack hastily from the ground and running towards the tunnel’s exit.
Alice Kwok Yim-ming, editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, confirmed the critically injured victim was a reporter on leave who had tendered her resignation earlier this month.
“We are saddened by the injury of our colleague. The journal condemns all violence,” Kwok said in a statement.
More than 300 journalists, editors, columnists and members of the cultural sector later issued a joint petition to condemn the violence.
A witness, who claimed he was drinking with a few others near the wall at the time of the incident, said on a radio programme on Tuesday morning that a man in casual wear had approached them.
“He asked us what we thought about [the protests],” he said. “When we expressed our views, he said: ‘I can’t hold it any longer.’ Then he took out a knife from his pocket and stabbed my two friends.”
Pan-democratic lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu, who arrived at the scene shortly after 4am, said security footage showed that a man dressed in clothes similar to that of the suspect had entered Kar Ming House, a block in Chung Ming Court, early on Tuesday. The man then took the lift to the 21st floor, changed his clothes and left the building.
Kwong said residents later found a shirt, believed to be from the suspect, in a rubbish bin in the building.
“The government needs to tell us whether we still live in a safe society,” Kwong said.
Police seized two knives from the crime scene and registered a case of wounding.
At the force’s regular 4pm press conference on Tuesday, top brass said officers received reports of the attack at 1.36am, and arrived at the scene in under five minutes. But they only obtained the CCTV footage of Kar Ming House at 5am, and the suspect had already fled his home when officers went up to make an arrest.
“We will not tolerate any violence. Regardless of the person’s background. We will investigate each case without fear or favour,” said Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung of the Police Public Relations Branch.
Christine Fong Kwok-shan, district councillor of Sai Kung, said she was shocked to learn about the attack, and had stationed 10 volunteers in various places across the district to gather information and witness statements from residents to assist police in their investigation.
Hong Kong has been rocked by months of street protests and political unrest over the now-shelved extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to jurisdictions with which the city lacked such an agreement, including mainland China.
On Sunday, men with sticks beat up Leung Kam-shing, convenor of the North District Parallel Imports Concern Group and a vocal critic of the extradition bill, in Sha Tin, and also threw an unknown white powder on his head.
Leung had organised a number of anti-parallel-trader protests in the past. The latest one, on July 13, was named “Reclaim Sheung Shui march”, which he said was attended by 30,000 people.
Additional reporting by Alvin Lum