Date
22 October 2019
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo speaks at a press conference on Monday in the wake of horrific attacks by suspected mobsters on passengers at a train station in Yuen Long the previous night. Photo: AFP
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo speaks at a press conference on Monday in the wake of horrific attacks by suspected mobsters on passengers at a train station in Yuen Long the previous night. Photo: AFP

What authorities must do to regain public trust

Even amid the outbreak of the anti-extradition bill movement and the ensuing clashes in early June, the general perception among average citizens was that as long as you stayed away from violent protests, you were safe.

Unfortunately, that perception got smashed following the Yuen Long attacks on Sunday, when some goons set upon innocent civilians at the MTR station late in the night, beating them up with sticks, pipes, rattan canes and brooms.

The horrifying assaults left dozens of passengers and passersby injured, including a pregnant woman.

While speculation abounds as to the motives behind the Yuen Long attacks and who exactly was behind them, what is mind-blogging is the police’s sluggish reaction throughout the incident.

Riot police didn’t arrive at the Yuen Long MTR Station until after the attacks had been going on for more than half an hour. By the time the officers, most of the thugs had already fled the scene.

The public panic and the police’s inaction have given rise to a lot of conspiracy theories. For example, there is a notion that the police chose to turn a blind eye or had even colluded with criminal elements to teach a lesson to anti-government protesters, who were the main targets of the violence that night in Yuen Long.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung dismissed such talk outright during a press conference Monday afternoon, but that hasn’t eased the sense of disquiet and panic among the public, particularly those living in towns such as Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai and Tsuen Wan in the New Territories,

In our opinion, if Lo really wants to restore public faith in the police, he must step forward and explain in detail how he intends to rid the city of bullies, bring peace to law-abiding citizens and restore law and order, as well as uphold the law in practice.

We would not want to buy into the notion that the police deliberately looked the other way when gangsters were beating up innocent civilians, but the sad truth is that a lot of people do harbor suspicions about the conduct of the law enforcement personnel.

If authorities fail to take convincing action to put all accusations to rest, it could dent Hong Kong’s reputation as a place of rule of law and undermine its position as an international financial hub.

Given the appalling assaults in Yuen Long, we believe the first and foremost thing the police must do right now is to quickly hunt down all those who were involved in the atrocity.

In the meantime, we would also like to call on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to respond to the public’s demand and officially withdraw the extradition bill, which is at the root of the ongoing social tensions. Also, an independent inquiry should be set up on the Yuen Long attacks.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 23

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal