A conservative lawmaker has been stabbed in Hong Kong in another sign of the worsening political climate in the enclave.
Local media reported that Junius Ho, 57, was stabbed in the chest Wednesday by an unidentified suspect while campaigning in local elections in a northern suburb. Ho was lucid after the attack and is expected to undergo surgery. The injury is reportedly not life threatening.
Two of Ho’s assistants were also taken to hospital, along with the suspect, who has been arrested.
“This morning is a dark day in Hong Kong’s district council elections. A candidate was intentionally assaulted by an attacker. There is no order in elections left,” Ho said afterward, in a statement issued by his office that was quoted in local media.
The attack on Ho comes just a day after a man was charged for biting off part of the ear of a pro-democracy politician and attacking others with a knife after a heated political row outside a shopping mall. In recent weeks, at least two other democracy campaigners have been attacked and hospitalized—legislator Roy Kwong and activist Jimmy Sham.
In a video of the attack on Ho posted online by a colleague, a grinning man can be seen presenting a floral bouquet to Ho while saying “Everybody recognizes your efforts.” Ho suggests that the two of them take a picture together. The man appears to be reaching into his bag to produce a phone but instead pulls out an object and lunges suddenly at the lawmaker.
Ho has been a deeply divisive figure in Hong Kong after he was purportedly caught on video in July shaking hands with men suspected of attacking anti-government protesters. In the wake of the furore, Ho’s office was ransacked and his parents’ graves desecrated.
The head of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the territory’s largest pro-establishment party, is meanwhile said to be meeting with top officials to call for greater security during the district council elections. The DAB has reportedly logged scores of incidents of vandalism and harassment of its candidates in the past month.
DAB chair Starry Lee told reporters at a press conference Wednesday “We are in the process of a violent election.” She said that the government had not “fulfilled their responsibility of ensuring a fair and just election, and as candidates we are very worried they will have no measures that will allow us to trust them.”
Lee also called the elections “unfair,” but it is likely they will proceed. Gary Tang, an assistant professor of social science at the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, told TIME that postponing the vote would “give an impression to the public that the pro-establishment wants to preserve their dominance in the district councils, which they currently enjoy.”
Hong Kong’s district councils are low-level bodies, charged with neighborhood issues, but elections to them—slated for Nov. 24—are being seen as a bellwether of support for the increasingly violent anti-government protests that have rocked the enclave for five months. Some analysts predict that conservative parties are in for a tough fight.
“The pro-establishment are disadvantaged in this political climate,” said Tang. “No matter how much they have served their community, if they are pro-establishment, they are disadvantaged”
Prominent activist Joshua Wong attempted to run in the elections but was barred over his sometime support for self-determination—seen by Beijing as tantamount to advocating secession for the former British possession, which was retroceded to China in 1997 after 156 years of colonial rule.
Beijing has thrown its backing behind Hong Kong’s beleaguered administration in its efforts to contain the unrest. China’s president, Xi Jinping, held an unscheduled meeting Monday with Hong Kong’s top official, Carrie Lam, and reportedly demanded “unswerving efforts to stop and punish violent activities” in Hong Kong, while also calling for “dialogue with all sectors.”
Lam is scheduled to meet the Chinese leader in charge of Hong Kong affairs, Vice Premier Han Zheng, on Wednesday.
—With reporting by Hillary Leung / Hong Kong