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HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police said Monday that a 48-year-old knife-wielding man who slashed two people and bit off part of the ear of a local politician during weekend protests has been arrested, along with two men who attacked him in return.
Senior police official John Tse said the man struck a couple with a knife outside a mall late Sunday after an argument, before turning his teeth on the politician's ear. Tse said the assailant, whose name was not given, was then thrashed by an angry crowd, including two men aged 23 and 29. All three were arrested following the incident.
Five people were injured, including two who were in critical condition, police said.
"We do not tolerate any form of violence regardless of one's motive and political stance. We will certainly investigate fully and bring offenders to justice," Tse said.
Local media cited witnesses as saying that before going on a rampage, the man told his victims that Hong Kong belongs to China. Television footage showed the man suddenly grabbing district councilor Andrew Chiu by the neck and biting his ear when Chiu tried to stop him from leaving after the attack. A man was left unconscious on the ground in a pool of blood.
The incident occurred shortly after police stormed the mall and several other shopping complexes to thwart anti-government protests as tensions continue to mount after five months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Although Chiu is a pro-democracy politician, it was not clear if that played any part in the attack.
"It shows that tempers are flaring up despite government claims to promote reconciliation. It's a sign that the situation is getting out of hand. People are losing patience and throwing rational judgment to the wind," said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Center for China Studies at Hong Kong's Chinese University.
Tse said there were several other bloody incidents over the weekend in which rioters attacked people with dissenting views. In one incident, a mob battered a Beijing supporter until he was unconscious and then stripped the man naked Saturday in a scene captured by local media.
"Such public shaming and bloody violence are totally against humanity," Tse said.
He said police arrested 325 people over the weekend. Operations were beefed up on Sunday to stymie unauthorized rallies and pursue radical protesters who had vandalized shops, subway stations and committed arson the day before in a repeat of weekly violence.
"Rioters' destructive acts serve no other purpose than to vent their anger and grievances, real and imagined. Continuing this rampage is a lose-lose situation for Hong Kong," Tse said.
His comments were made through a Facebook Live broadcast after police called off their news conference when six journalists staged a protest and refused to leave. Wearing helmets with words that read "Investigate police violence, stop police lies," they were protesting against what they said was rising police violence against journalists covering the protests.
The demonstrations began in early June over a now-shelved plan to allow extraditions to mainland China but have since swelled into a movement seeking other demands, including direct elections for Hong Kong's leaders and an independent inquiry into police conduct.
Many protesters are angry that Beijing is slowly infringing on the freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997. There are no signs the unrest could stop any time soon as the government has refused to budge and Beijing has indicated it could tighten control over the territory.
"Protest has been integrated into the life of Hong Kong people," said software developer Ming Or, 31, as he watched a crowd chant anti-government slogans at a downtown mall during lunchtime Monday.
"Young people want a more fair and just society instead of having a bigger cake that isn't divided equally, and we want our basic rights to be guaranteed. We cannot stop because we feel we are doing the right thing," he said.