Attempts to establish who did exactly what on the night of July 21, 2019 have led to prosecution, or foundered amid a crackdown under the national security law.
By Chan Yun Nam and Man Hoi Yan
Police were out in force at Yuen Long MTR station on the second anniversary of a mob attack on train passengers there at the height of the 2019 protest movement, as one victim of the attacks told RFA they are still waiting for justice.
As shoppers and train passengers bustled through the station on Wednesday, there was scant suggestion beyond the police presence that anything violent had happened there.
But for one woman who gave only her surname, Cheng, the memories of her husband’s beating at the hands of the attackers have yet to fade.
“I saw a group of vicious men wearing white use their weapons on ordinary people,” she recalled. “But there wasn’t so much as a single police officer or MTR staff member present at the time.”
“We will only be able to forgive, and to let go of our grievances, and move on, when justice has been done,” she told RFA.
Pro-democracy members of the District Council, who were returned in a landslide victory for the opposition camp after months of protests against the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s growing interference in the day-to-day running of Hong Kong, were keen to get to the bottom of the attacks, which many suspect were carried out at the instigation of pro-China groups, while the Hong Kong police looked the other way.
But two years after they set up a committee to probe the incident, 21 pro-democracy politicians have resigned from Yuen Long’s District Council amid concerns they will be disqualified for “insincere” oaths of allegiance and required to pay back salary received while in post.
The district councilors who formed the investigative committee ran into obstructions at every turn, according to committee member Hermine Chan.
Security law scares witnesses
She said the CCP’s imposition of a draconian national security law banning public criticism of the government had affected people’s willingness to come forward with information, for fear of reprisals at a later date.
“We appealed to some local residents who were attacked to come forward with evidence, and some of them did share some of their photos and videos [of the attacks],” Chan told RFA.
“But when it came to establishing the exact details of what was shown in them, they were unwilling to say more, and didn’t always give us that information,” she said.
“It was impossible for us to reconstruct what happened from photos and videos alone, with no context or narrative attached to them,” Chan said.
Later, Ng Kin-wai, who chaired the investigation, was arrested for “subversion” under the national security law for taking part in a democratic primary in the summer of 2020, and the group fell apart, she said.
“We have lost our sense of where to go next, and it’s unclear how we can find out what actually happened now,” Chan said.
She said the arrest and fining of TV producer Bao Choy for carrying out license plate searches as part of her independent investigation into the Yuen Long attacks had given the councillors pause.
“Now that a journalist has been prosecuted for carrying out a thorough investigation into the incident, we are reviewing what to do next, and looking at the legal implications,” Chan said. “I never thought it would be this hard.”
Another committee member who gave only the nickname T said it effectively no longer exists, and the official narrative has tried to twist the incident into a melee between rival groups.
Who Owns the Truth?’
The anniversary came as the independent platform Stand News reported that there were a number of pro-China figures on the streets of Yuen Long as dozens of white-shirted mobsters burst into the MTR station and mall area, attacking passers-by in the main concourse and beating up train passengers.
While 63 people were arrested at the time, only seven people have been convicted of “rioting” or other offenses linked to the attacks so far, the report said.
Bao Choy’s documentary for government broadcaster RTHK showed how police were present as baton-wielding men in white T-shirts began to gather in Yuen Long ahead of the bloody attack on passengers and passers-by, was arrested at her home.
She was arrested on suspicion of road traffic violations relating to vehicle registration searches used in the program, and later fined by a court.
The Hong Kong Connection TV documentary titled “7.21 Who Owns the Truth?” showed clips from surveillance cameras at shops in Yuen Long and interviewed people who were identified in the footage.
Its airing forced police to admit that they already had a presence in the town, but did nothing to prevent the attack, following initial denials.
Thirty-nine minutes elapsed between the first emergency calls to the final arrival of police at the Yuen Long MTR station, where dozens of people were already injured, and many were in need of hospital treatment.
Pro-government lawmaker Junius Ho was filmed shaking hands with white-clad men in Yuen Long on the night of the attack.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Copyright © 1998-2020, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. https://www.rfa.org
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