Hammer attack, thwarted speech more anti-government unrest

More chaos in Hong Kong

Assailants with hammers attacked a protest organizer and lawmakers shouting abuse forced Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to abandon a speech in the legislature, in two dramas Wednesday that highlighted the chaos gripping the semi-autonomous Chinese territory after more than four months of anti-government unrest.

The attack on Jimmy Sham, one of the public faces of the protest movement, was reported by his Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized large demonstrations. Sham was on his way to an evening meeting in Kowloon when the four or five attackers pounced, leaving him with bloody head injuries but conscious, the Front said on its Facebook page.

It suggested the assault was politically motivated, linked "to a spreading political terror in order to threaten and inhibit the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights."

Earlier in the day, pro-democracy lawmakers yelling that she is "the mother of the mafia police" forced Lam to stop delivering her annual policy address, causing her to walk out of the Legislative Council.

The hostile reception marked another slap in the face for the embattled chief executive grappling with the demonstrations and accompanying violence that have undermined her leadership, wrecked trust in the police and opened festering bitterness between opponents and supporters of the protest movement.

As she started to speak, chanting lawmakers held aloft placards suggesting Lam has blood on her hands. They also used a projector to light up Lam's face and the wall behind her with the protest movement's key demands. One lawmaker wearing a paper mask with the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping tossed a placard as Lam walked out.

After two thwarted attempts, unable to continue through the ruckus, Lam fell back on Plan B: delivering the speech 75 minutes late by video link, standing ramrod-straight with China's yellow-starred red flag to her right and Hong Kong's flag on her left.

Describing the territory as going through "major crisis," Lam said, "People are asking: Will Hong Kong return to normal?"

She appealed for its 7.5 million citizens to "cherish the city," warning that "continued violence and spread of hatred will erode the core values of Hong Kong."

But with its focus on such minutiae as building new tunnels and freeing up land for housing, the 50-minute speech titled "Treasure Hong Kong our home" only fueled criticism that Lam is deaf to protesters' concerns about the future of the territory's freedoms, unique in China.

In a subsequent news conference, Lam again made clear that she wouldn't resign and insisted there has been no erosion "whatsoever" of Hong Kong's freedoms.

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