July 22 (UPI) -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam condemned violence that broke out Monday when weapon-wielding, masked assailants attacked pro-democracy protesters, journalists and citizens at a subway station.
Lam said the attack was "shocking" and that she instructed Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo to investigate.
"We absolutely do not condone that sort of violent acts and let me make this clear again -- violence is not a solution to any problem," Hong Kong's chief executive said during a press conference. "Violence will only breed more violence and at the end of the day the whole of Hong Kong and the people will suffer as a result of the loss of law in order."
At least 45 people were hurt late Sunday night after a mob of people dressed in white T-shirts and armed with metal or bamboo rods attacked people on subway cars and on the platform of the Yuen Long subway station with police arriving after the assembled group had left the vicinity.
Hours before the violence erupted, protesters attended a march to demand a suspended extradition bill that would allow for some refugees from justice to be sent to face Beijing courts on the Chinese mainland to be wholly withdrawn. Some protesters defaced a national emblem at the China Liaison Office during the march as the protest has evolved into a wider pro-democracy movement.
Lam said the behavior of the attackers was "infuriating."
"We absolutely do not allow or tolerate such behavior," she said.
Lo defended the police reaction, blaming the late response on a lack of manpower. He said they received a report of violence at the station, but the responding officers realized they weren't prepared and called for additional help. Lo said manpower has been thin since protests escalated last month.
"Our manpower is stretched because every time when there is a major event, which may lead to violent confrontations, we have to redeploy some of my manpower from various districts to the Hong Kong Island," he said.
He defended the decision to close several police stations near the Yuen Long station, saying it was out of concern for officers' safety.
"I really don't want to see what happened in Yuen Long to happen again," he said.
Later Monday, a police spokesman said six people involved in the Yuen Long attack had been arrested for unlawful assembly, Hong Kong Free Press reported. The men, between the ages of 24 to 54, had triad connections and more arrests were expected, the spokesperson said.