Hong Kong police have arrested a 20-year-old man on Tuesday over the beating of a taxi driver who was accused of deliberately ramming his vehicle into a crowd of pro-democracy protesters.

october 6 taxi ramming
Photo: Inmediahk.net.

On Sunday afternoon, a taxi was seen driving onto the pedestrian walkway outside the Cheung Sha Wan government offices, injuring at least one female protester and smashing into a storefront. The 59-year-old driver was surrounded and bloodied by a large crowd, and his car was later smashed up.

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Both the taxi driver and the injured protester were hospitalised.

On Monday, Ming Pao reported that the protester was in serious condition and suffered multiple fractures.

october 6 taxi ramming
A protester tries to help a bloodied taxi driver after he smashed his taxi along Cheung Sha Wan Road. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.

In the early hours of Tuesday, police arrested a man surnamed Ho for rioting. Officers said that – in the fracas – the driver lost HK$20,000 in cash and a watch worth approximately HK$140,000. The case had been classified as “rioting, wounding, criminal damage, theft, and traffic accident causing injury.”

‘Lost control’

Protesters claimed that the taxi driver intended to hurt people with his vehicle. However, according to the police, the taxi “lost control” and drove onto the road after people smashed the windshield with metal rods. No charges have been laid against the taxi driver as of Tuesday.

october 6 taxi ramming
Photo: United Social Press.

Videos online appeared to show that, prior to the crash, the front door on the driver’s side was briefly left open and protesters were hitting the side of the vehicle.

The Taxi Drivers and Operators Association issued a statement on Monday condemning the violent incident, and expressed condolences to the driver.

“Our member Mr. Cheng was on his way to work when he encountered protest barricades in Sham Shui Po. Protesters assaulted him, causing his vehicle to lose control, and he was later hospitalised for serious injuries,” the Association said.

The statement also noted the “escalating street violence” which took place after the announcement of the anti-mask law, and called on drivers to prioritise their own safety and avoid direct confrontations. It did not mention the injured protester.

october 6 taxi ramming
Photo: United Social Press.

On Monday, protesters criticised the police after uniformed officers were spotted outside the hospital room of the injured female protester. It was unclear whether she was under arrest.

Both Chinese state media and the Hong Kong police Facebook page condemned the incident, though neither mentioned the controversy over the alleged attempt to run over protesters.

It is not the first time taxi drivers have been targetted. On September 29, another taxi was vandalised by protesters after the driver allegedly tried to ram into journalists.

Hong Kong has seen a growing trend of vigilantism as protesters, wary of police intervention, have taken the law into their own hands. They describe such vigilante justice as a “private resolution,” but the methods were also met with some detractors from within the movement who say that such actions will cost them public support.

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.