A group of pro-Hong Kong activists in the Pacific Island of Saipan said local police unfairly arrested them after they were physically assaulted by Beijing supporters during a recent demonstration.
On Dec. 22 afternoon, about a dozen activists belonging to a group called Saipan Alliance Supporting Hong Kong, marched out on a road along the coastline, waving flags and shouting slogans in support of the ongoing pro-democracy protests. The demonstration has become part of their Sunday routine since September.
Saipan is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States located in the Western Pacific.
When the group passed a department store, however, a man in a red shirt charged towards them, shouting obscenities, according to Jia Yiqun, one of the demonstrators.
The man, later identified as Jin Chunsong, owner of a local Chinese restaurant, pointed his finger at the demonstrators and called them “traitors,” insisting that they “can’t march there,” Jia said in a recent interview with The Epoch Times.
According to video footage obtained by The Epoch Times, Jin also violently grabbed the flag that activist Li Min was waving and pulled it off from the pole, before punching Li hard in the throat and the face. His wife and two other employees from the restaurant also attacked at least four people there, including Jia. The wife swung a metal stick at the activists, which snapped amid the melee. The incident lasted about 10 minutes.
The sharp end of the pole cut activist Yuan Feng Kung’s right wrist and his chest. Jin also sustained injuries to his face.
The police who arrived at the scene talked “at length” with the attackers and proceeded to arrest four demonstrators, a witness who gave his name as Peter told The Epoch Times.
“[The police] asked them [Jin, his wife, and the restaurant staff] to identify who was involved in the fight. The flag-holding group lined up in a row, and whoever they pointed at was then arrested,” Peter said.
In a Dec. 23 press release, the police said that the four had “assaulted the victim [Jin] by hitting the victim’s face with the bottom of the wooden stake, before punching, and stomping on the victim.” Jin sustained a broken bone underneath the left eye, according to the same statement. The police also charged them with “disturbing the peace.”
Jia said the arrest was “unfair” and “arbitrary,” adding that they didn’t get a chance to present their side to the police. The four’s request to receive medical treatment for their wounds was also denied.
“We have video proof that it was the two Chinese who attacked us first, yet they were treated as ‘victims’ by the police,” Jia said in a statement obtained by The Epoch Times.
Peter similarly expressed disappointment. He said that the police didn’t understand the full situation and rushed into a wrongful conclusion.
“How can such things happen in the civil world? It’s just inconceivable,” Peter said. “How can the attackers walked off free while the attacked get arrested?”
Jia believes that the police statement allowed the Saipan Chinese News, a local Chinese-language pro-Beijing newspaper, to slander the group “with added interpretations.”
The restaurant couple had told the media outlet that the march had “affected the restaurant’s business” and could cast a negative impression on them as well as the island. The article, which appeared on Saipan Chinese News’ Dec. 27 edition, also labeled the demonstration as “anti-China.”
As of press time, Saipan police authorities, known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Public Safety, did not respond to inquiries from The Epoch Times.
Detained Activist in Concern
Two of the arrested activists were sent to the hospital shortly. All except Qin Xiaowei were released within 22 hours. Qin remains in custody, according to the activists. Jia said that Qin has been transferred to an immigration center, raising concerns about his possible deportation back to China, where he may face political retaliation for his activism. Saipan police did not confirm Qin’s current status.
Qin, who recently relocated to Saipan from mainland China, had participated in demonstrations in Hong Kong in August.
And back in 2018, China’s Guangdong Province police detained Qin for seven days for sharing a photo on WeChat, a popular Chinese microblogging platform, which the police said had insulted the Chinese authorities. The photo depicted Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Jia, a Christian preacher, fled the mainland in 2014 in fear of religious persecution. He said that the group is still seeking permission from Saipan police to visit Qin.
Jia said they have experienced harassment since Sept. 1, when they organized their first pro-Hong Kong march in Saipan. At the time, a Chinese woman hurled stones at them, smashing one of their signs. The case remains under investigation. At the time, a few people wearing dark sunglasses had also followed the activists around and videotaped their activities, he said.
On Sept. 29, Jia and several others in his group arranged another march. He said that they would keep up with the Sunday protests despite what has happened.
“We want to support Hong Kong out of righteous indignation,” he said, naming a list of longstanding allegations against Hong Kong police in their handling of protesters, who have staged months-long demonstrations against Beijing’s growing meddling in Hong Kong affairs.
“Coming from the mainland, we know first-hand the brutality of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party],” he continued.
“Some people in the West still hold a favorable view of the CCP … But with the fight of Hongkongers, the CCP’s lies and brainwashing campaign … will fail miserably.”