Like most locals, I never had any worries about personal safety nor hesitated to travel anywhere — and at any time — within Hong Kong as I firmly believed the city was one of the safest places in the world.
But all that changed after Sunday’s horrific incident in Yuen Long, where we saw a group of white-clad gangsters beating up passengers at the MTR station with seemingly no fear of the law.
What was also worrisome was the tardy response of the police — they failed to arrive in time at the station after being alerted about the violence and also didn’t make any on-the-spot arrests.
The perceived apathy has, not surprisingly, led to suspicions that the officers deliberately chose to go slow as the targets of the triad violence that night were mostly pesky anti-government protesters.
The police vehemently denied such accusations, and the truth may well be that the force just fell short during that time and that it had no ulterior motives.
Facing intense criticism, the police have since arrested nearly a dozen suspects and have vowed that they will leave no stone unturned to bring all the culprits to book.
Still, that doesn’t lessen the anguish and pain of the victims — more than 45 people were injured in the train station attacks — or the worries among the general public following the ghastly incident.
Following the attacks on innocent civilians, the once unthinkable question is being asked: is anyone really safe in the city now?
As people fret about their personal safety and well-being, the government has a lot of soul-searching to do as the current fraught social situation is largely one of its own making.
Carrie Lam’s extradition bill misadventure has caused untold ramifications, deepening the social divisions and stoking feelings of anger and dismay within society.
Worse, the administration appears clueless as to the way forward in terms of bringing things back to normal even after the millions-strong protest marches by citizens.
As it adopts a tone-deaf attitude and refuses to bow to the demands of protesters, which include complete withdrawal of the fugitives bill and setting up an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, we can foresee more mass-demonstrations in the coming weeks.
Following Sunday’s attacks, we can expect Yuen Long to become a key venue for the next wave of citizens’ marches and protests.
A group has already announced that it plans a big event in the New Territories town this weekend, aiming to send a message that people won’t be cowed by the threat of gangster attacks.
The police and the rural council have called for the protest march to be put off in view of the current tense situation, and to prevent potential further violence as that was seen last Sunday.
But the event organizer has said the rally will go ahead on Saturday, despite the risks and possible threats.
Give this, we can only wait and watch as to what might happen during the weekend. Meanwhile, there is a sense of grim foreboding in many quarters.
Anticipating more chaos, rail operator MTR Corp said it will set up a war room to deal with potential situations, and also hinted that it might shut the Yuen Long station temporarily if deemed necessary.
Ditto for Sun Hung Kai Properties, which is said to be advising tenants to shutter their shops in Yoho Mall as a safety precaution.
Meanwhile, the heads of several universities have urged their students to stay away from risky areas and potential trouble spots.
It is a different matter, though, whether the young men and women will heed the advice, given what we have seen in the past two months when the student community has been the backbone of the mass protests amid the summer break.
It is hard to say how the planned march will play out this weekend in Yuen Long, where the rural body Heung Yee Kuk rules the roost and its words carry much weight.
But there is one thing that we can be reasonably sure of: unlike their performance last Sunday, the police will be on guard this time and do their best to thwart any further attacks by triad gangsters.
Authorities know very well that one more incident like the one seen last week will spell an end to the careers of some top brass within the administration, and also put the very survival of the Lam government at stake.
For those of you who are planning to travel to what is perhaps now the most dangerous place in Hong Kong, here’s a bit of advice: take all precautions and make sure to carry the right gear, including a fully-charged and camera-enabled mobile phone to gather evidence in the event of untoward happenings.
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