29 February 2020
Police lob tear gas in Yuen Long on Monday night after being confronted by angry crowds demanding answers for the July 21 Yuen Long train station attack. Photo: HKEJ
Police lob tear gas in Yuen Long on Monday night after being confronted by angry crowds demanding answers for the July 21 Yuen Long train station attack. Photo: HKEJ

Tear gas, rubber bullets as crowds mark July 21 Yuen Long attack

Police fired more than a hundred rounds of tear gas and also deployed rubber bullets and other tactics in Yuen Long on Monday night in a bid to disperse crowds who had gathered in the area to mark the three-month anniversary of a suspected gangster attack on anti-government protesters.

As people came onto the streets to denounce what they perceived as police inaction, or even worse, in relation to the attack that took place at the Yuen Long MTR Station on July 21, there were angry confrontations with the law enforcement personnel who were on guard in the sensitive district. 

Authorities had been bracing for potential trouble, having faced questions as to why they failed to prevent the shocking violence three months ago, when dozens of thugs beat up democracy activists and other commuters and passersby in and around the Yuen Long train station.

Earlier in the evening, several people, responding to calls online, staged a sit-in protest at the MTR station and demanded answers over the July incident that has fueled much anger within society.

On the night of July 21, white-shirted men stormed the Yuen Long station and launched a violent attack on commuters, using poles and sticks.

While the main targets were black-clad people returning to Yuen long after participating in an anti-government rally on Hong Kong island earlier in the day, other rail passengers and passers-by also fell victim to the violence. 

At least 45 people were injured in the attack, which was perpetrated by suspected triad gang members.

The police faced severe criticism after the incident, accused of failing to respond in time and preventing the violence, or even worse deliberately turning a blind eye to the attack.

Yesterday, as people sought to mark the three-month anniversary of the incident, rail operator MTR Corp closed the Yuen Long station at 2 pm for the day, fearing potential trouble. The adjacent YOHO Mall also suspended operation three hours later.

In the evening, a large number of black-clad people that had planned a sit-in at the train station changed their plans and gathered near the intersection of Castle Peak Road and Tai Tong Road.

At around 7 pm, more than a hundred people wearing masks set barricades and blocked the two roads.

Police then dispersed the crowds, trying to make arrests of the protesters, who then ran into other streets in Yuen Long and set up blockades.

According to a message released by the government later on Monday night, at around 9:30 pm, “rioters hurled hard objects at police officers, and vandalised bank facilities in the vicinity of Tai Tong Road, Yuen Long.”

Conducting multiple rounds of dispersal operations, Special Tactical Squad officers and anti-riot officers together fired dozens of rounds of tear gas and arrested multiple people.

However, the police were accused of firing tear gas without prior warning, putting journalists at the scene as well as some seniors and children who passed the area at risk.

According to reports, a press photographer was hit by a pepper-spray pellet that landed on his eye glasses, requiring him to sek help from paramedics.

During the protests in the night, a cardboard box with wires and a device on the top was spotted on Light Rail tracks, before police removed it quickly.

The building of the Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee on Yau Tin East Road, which had been earlier damaged by protesters, was again reportedly targeted by petrol bomb-wielding protesters.

Shortly before midnight, there were reports of a petrol bomb being thrown close to a light-rail station, RTHK reported.

As of midnight Monday, some of the protesters remained in a stand-off with police.

Earlier in the evening, a number of MTR stations including Tseung Kwan O Station and Tai Koo Station also witnessed people staging sit-in protests over the police’s handling of the July 21 attack.

Monday’s clashes came hours after the police’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau told reporters that they have arrested 34 male suspects, aged 18 to 60, in connection with the July 21 attack, and that six among the arrested have been charged with rioting.

The regional criminal unit of New Territories North, which is following up on the case, is still looking for other suspects on the run, an officer said during a daily press briefing.

According to the Hospital Authority, as of 7:30 am on Tuesday, 28 people — 20 males and eight females — were brought into hospitals after being injured in the public events on Monday night. Among those patients, 13 were in stable condition, while the others have been discharged.

On Tuesday morning, following up on his earlier remarks that Hong Kong society needs to move on from the July 21 Yuen Long incident, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung — who is currently functioning as the acting chief executive as his boss, Carrie Lam, is on an overseas trip — said the public should leave the matter in the hands of the Independent Police Complaints Council.

The official said he hopes the agency will have an initial report ready by the end of this year.

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