The Fire Services Department said on Thursday that its ambulance staff were delayed for an hour in treating those injured inside Prince Edward MTR station on August 31, as a police officer twice denied them entry into the station.
Ambulance medics arrived at around 11:30pm, shortly after a lone colleague present at the platform called for backup. Baton-wielding police had swooped into the station and boarded trains, making arrests and deploying pepper spray.
However, an unidentified officer in riot gear waved the fire services crew away, claiming there was “no one injured on the platforms.”
Police on Thursday admitted the incident, but Chief Superintendent John Tse said the officer may have meant that there was nobody injured within his field of view.
The officer had no reason to “maliciously obstruct the rescue,” Tse said, adding that the public should not focus on one sentence.
Nineteen ambulance staff were finally allowed to enter the station at 00:30am.
The night ended with 53 people arrested, though the exact number of people wounded remains under dispute. The sole paramedic who arrived first on the scene initially counted 10 wounded, but the number was later revised to seven.
On Thursday, representatives from the Fire Service Department said they did not know why the count changed.
The medic in question did not have a “triage card” at the time, and it was possible that some people were counted twice, said Deputy Chief Ambulance Officer Tsang Man-ha.
It was also possible that some of the injured people’s triage classifications were later changed, she added. A person marked under the “red” category for “serious” may, in some cases, still be conscious and able to walk.
Only the medic responsible for the initial count knew what really happened, Tsang said.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Derek Chan said: “It is unthinkable that we would see someone injured, or dead, and then leave without treating them.”
Despite rumours online, Chan said FSD medics did not witness any deaths in the station: “This is a guarantee that the Fire Services Department makes to the people of Hong Kong.”
Since June, large-scale peaceful protests against the extradition bill have morphed into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy and alleged police brutality.
‘A regrettable situation’
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo on Wednesday revealed an internal document from the Fire Services Department which allegedly showed a discrepancy in the count.
Not only was the number of wounded reduced from 10 to seven, the three who have allegedly “disappeared” were all marked as serious, Mo said.
In response to the Thursday press conferences, Mo demanded more information from the Fire Services Department.
Mo asked for the FSD’s operation records, the medic’s handwritten notes, and recordings of the conversations between medics and their control centre.
“At least three people who were seriously injured and required immediate medical attention had to wait two and a half hours until they were hospitalised,” Mo said. “This was a regrettable situation.”
“The public believes that the [FSD medics] upheld their life-saving mission. The FSD possesses key evidence from that night, and I hope that it will choose to publicise that information and not disappoint the public.”
Other lawmakers, activists and protesters have also called on the MTR Corporation to release the full surveillance camera footage from Prince Edward station on August 31.
At least one lawsuit has been filed targeting the rail operator, with the goal of getting the court to compel the release of the footage.
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