It is fair to assume that a lot of people in Hong Kong had a sleepless night on July 21 as they were learning about a terrible attack on civilians by a group of thugs at the Yuen Long MTR Station.
Many injured victims were unable to get any help from the police, as officers arrived at the scene only after the violence had been going on for more than half an hour.
The sluggish response has given rise to suspicions that the police deliberately looked the other way when the assaults were taking place, sparking worries of a “white terror” type environment that had prevailed in China during the dark days of the Cultural Revolution.
During that infamous political movement in the mainland between 1966 and 1976, the officialdom was deliberately provoking social polarization and inciting violence against one another among the masses.
Such kind of organized, indiscriminate and lethal violence against civilians cannot be characterized as ordinary social disturbance, using general terms.
Rather, it satisfies the definition of a terrorist act under the existing United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance.
If this kind of organized violent act is allowed to go unchecked, it will not only lead to further casualties among innocent civilians, it may also envelop the entire city in white terror, under which Hongkongers will have to constantly live in fear.
What I found truly disappointing is that the government didn’t bother to differentiate between the protests at Beijing’s Liaison Office and the violence against innocent civilians in Yuen Long.
The administration condemned the violent acts in Sheung Wan and Yuen Long in the same breath, without putting the serious organized violence in Yuen Long in a special category.
The way the police handled the Yuen Long assaults is also a matter worthy of serious debate.
Several citizens have complained that when they saw a large number of white-clad people gathering in Yuen Long, they dialed 999 as well as the Yuen Long Police Station to seek help, but were unable to get through.
Worse still, the Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai police stations had shut their doors when a number of citizens went there on Sunday night in a bid to report the incidents that took place in and around the Yuen Long train station.
As a matter of fact, as early as Sunday noon, rumors about an imminent and massive attack targeting people dressed in black had been circulating across neighborhoods in Yuen Long.
What baffles me is why the police failed to deploy sufficient manpower to stand by after having received widespread and extensive information about the planned attacks, and instead simply allowed the town to descend into a state of anarchy that fateful night!
Video clips showing that the police didn’t stop, search or arrest anybody among a large crowd of men dressed in white holding wooden sticks and iron pipes have been circulating on the internet over the past few days.
The images raise doubts as to whether the authorities were applying an alternative set of law enforcement standards to these people.
Judging from all the happenings, we can’t blame if citizens suspect that the police may have colluded with the thugs and looked the way in a bid to punish or warn anti-establishment protesters.
To repair the damage and help restore social order, there are some things that must be done quickly.
One, the government and the police must review the law enforcement personnel deployment situation of that night to learn how things could have been done better and the violence prevented.
Next, swift action must be taken to bring all those involved in the attacks to justice. Also, an inquiry commission should be established to look into the entire incident.
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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