On the fringes of the chaos resulting from clashes between police and anti-extradition Bill protestors in the heart of Hong Kong on Sun night (21 Jul), dozens of men clad in white believed to be triad gangsters stormed into the Yuen Long MTR station, subsequently targeting protestors as well as train passengers and other members of the public the same night.
South China Morning Post reported that according to the Hospital Authority, around 45 people were either sent to the hospital or had sought treatment themselves for injuries sustained during the attack.
The entrance to the station located in the New Territories was initially closed, but was broken into by the mob in white. SCMP observed that a similar — if not the same — group of men had launched a similar attack against protestors around 10.30pm, which led to the MTR bypassing the station since 11pm on Sun.
Hong Kong Free Press on Mon (22 Jul) uploaded a video of the attack that took place on Sun. Describing it as a “graphic” video, HKFP observed that the men in white, some of whom had worn masks, had used “bamboo sticks” to hit protestors and other passengers:
HKFP reported the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) as saying that the police had failed to take actions against the mob brutality that took place at Yuen Long MTR station, and instead had focused on “unnecessarily” firing tear gas at protesters in Sheung Wan.
“Real thugs have attacked passersby, a journalist and a lawmaker, badly injuring them, but the police have failed to enforce the law. This has angered us greatly,” CHRF’s statement read.
A male reporter was beaten by the men in white and had suffered bleeding in his mouth as a result, according to the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, while Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting was also seen bleeding from his mouth in a social media livestream as a result of the attack.
Police reportedly absent during violent mob attack, victims furious as they had to defend themselves
Witnesses told SCMP that not a single police officer was present at the time the attack took place, and that those present at the scene were upset that they had to resort to defending themselves with umbrellas and helmets against the men in white, who had used rods to inflict physical violence on anyone wearing black, as well as other passengers.
Victims of the rampage were also reportedly “furious” with riot police who had arrived later, as they believed that riot police was responsible for letting the men in white run amok.
Yuen Long assistant district commander of Crime Yau Nai-keung said in a press conference today (22 Jul) that police received a stream of calls regarding criminal intimidation at 10.41am, and had immediately sent a patrol van to the Yuen Long West Rail station, adding that more officers were sent to the scene after it was found that the initial single van of officers was inadequate to handle the chaos.
“Just because a person is wearing white it doesn’t mean they participated in the fight. We cannot arrest them because of their clothes. We have to be fair to all sides. I cannot say people wearing black joined brawls either,” he said, in relation to a similar attack at Nam Pin Wai village.
Officers in riot gear surrounded the village at 1am, but did not intervene until 3.30am.
While the men in white were seen to be armed with weapons in a live RTHK feed, Yau said that no arrests could be made as police were not able to ascertain whether they are the same people who had participated in the “brawls”.
“We did take down their identity information but we couldn’t do it for all of them, just as we cannot jot down the identity information of more than 100 people dressed in black,” he added.
A live stream video by Apple Daily, which was posted by a Redditor on Sun (21 Jul), depicts police allegedly letting the men in white walk free after the attacks. The men can be seen entering a vehicle with a mainland Chinese licence plate, which fuels speculation surrounding the role of pro-Beijing factions in sparking the incident of mob violence on Sun.
“Powerful authorities” likely behind mob attack, netizens theorise, as police role in diffusing violence is also questioned
The city’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam in a press conference today (22 Jul), in light of the chaotic events on Sun, told reporters: “Violence is not a solution to any problem. 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 and order in Hong Kong.”
CHRF alleged that “powerful authorities” have been employing “thugs” to launch similar attacks on protestors since the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement was launched, HKFP reported.
Netizens’ comments echoed the Front’s theory, discussing why the police had allegedly failed to adequately protect the public from such violence when needed.