20 January 2020
Hong Kong's anti-graft agency is believed to be gathering surveillance camera footage from Yuen Long in a bid to examine police conduct during the July 21 incidents. Photo: Bloomberg
Hong Kong's anti-graft agency is believed to be gathering surveillance camera footage from Yuen Long in a bid to examine police conduct during the July 21 incidents. Photo: Bloomberg

ICAC said to launch inquiry into police conduct in Yuen Long

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is said to be looking into the July 21 Yuen Long incidents to determine if police officers had engaged in any misconduct in relation to discharge of their duties as public servants.

With the police failing to prevent attacks on civilians, and amid allegations that some officers may have looked the other way or even colluded with gangsters to teach anti-government protesters a lesson, Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency is reported to be examining the events that took place in the New Territories town ten days ago.

RTHK cited sources as saying that the ICAC has set up a task force to look into whether any police officers committed misconduct in public office in the incident.

ICAC officers went to Fung Yau Street North near Yuen Long MTR Station on Tuesday afternoon and asked some local merchants to provide footage from their surveillance cameras, the report said, citing unnamed merchants.

The move is believed to be aimed at reconstructing how the events unfolded in Yuen Long on July 21, with investigators interested in knowing if police officers were indeed patrolling in the neighborhood at that time and if it was true that the force was short of manpower as they claimed.

In the violence that shocked not only Hong Kong society but also the international community, a group of white-clad people targeted people wearing black, the dress code of anti-government protesters in recent weeks, as well as other passengers, launching indiscriminate attacks using weapons such as rods, pipes and brooms during the night.

The attacks took place in the concourse of the MTR station and in train compartments, as well as in some other locations in Yuen Long.

Among the injured were some who were believed to be returning to Yuen Long after participating in a protest march that took place on Hong Kong Island earlier in the day and some journalists covering the incident at the scene. 

As the attacks angered many citizens, some of whom slammed the police for late response and even accused them of colluding with triad gangsters, the police insisted that officers had taken action against those who attacked protesters, although it was not timely enough.

In the wake of the attacks, Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, Labour Party chairman Steven Kwok Wing-kin and representatives of the Civil Human Rights Front had filed complaints separately with the ICAC, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

They claimed that text messages between two Yuen Long District Council members and police officers in the district clearly indicated that police had been aware of the incident beforehand but did not arrive at the scene until dozens of minutes after it took place, throwing up the issue of serious dereliction of duty.

In response to whether officers were involved in misconduct in public office, barrister Stephen Char Shik-ngor, who had once served as a chief ICAC investigator, cited an English criminal law case from 1979 which saw a British police officer get convicted for the offence of standing by and watching a person die of assault.

Although police claimed that two responding officers did arrive at the scene soon after receiving a report, the fact that they just waited for backup and even left the scene later instead of trying to stop the attacks was unacceptable, Char said.

In related news, Wan and fellow Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting on Tuesday accompanied several victims of the Yuen Long incident for a meeting with a representative of MTR Corp to seek accountability and compensation.

Lam demanded a comprehensive report from the rail operator, which has promised to keep footage of CCTV at the station for purposes of investigation.

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