A District Council chair was among those arrested as police fired tear gas and pepper spray to break up a protest on Saturday, eight months after the Yuen Long mob attack.

Photo: Studio Incendo.

Last July, over 100 white-clad men indiscriminately attacked passengers and protesters with rods and other weapons in and around Yuen Long MTR station. Reporters and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting were among the 40 injured, as police were criticised as being slow to respond.

Over the past seven months, the MTR Corporation has closed Yuen Long station early during each anniversary of the incident in view of monthly commemorative sit-ins and protests.

Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

At 4pm on Saturday, several MTR exits were closed.

Riot police stationed at Yuen Long MTR exit two hours prior to the scheduled protest. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Over 30 private security guards and police were patrolling the station, and over 50 riot police were stationed at the transport interchange outside.

Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

At around 8:10pm, HKFP witnessed a reporter and passerby being stopped and searched by police after they left a convenience store.

Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

They were later released, though another arrest took place nearby.

Photo: Kero/United Social Press.

Yuen Long’s transport interchange has long been the home of a large pro-democracy Lennon Wall, with messages of support for the anti-extradition law movement.

Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

However, on Saturday, many of the pro-democracy messages were replaced with pro-government posters.

Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Messages called protesters “rioters,” took aim at democrat Lam Cheuk-ting, and called for the legislation of the Article 23 national security law. As some protesters attempted to remove the new posters, police officers shouted: “Do not litter.”

Police officers videotape the protest scene in Yuen Long. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

One protester dressed as “No-Face” – a character from Japanese anime Spirited Away – held a sign saying “July 21st, Hong Kong is dead” inside nearby YOHO shopping mall.

Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP. 

He covered his left eye – a gesture of support for protesters injured by police projectiles.

Yau San Street clashes

Pro-democracy protesters convened at Yau San Street, chanting slogans such as “five demands, not one less.” Protests since last June have escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment.

Photo: Studio Incendo.

Photos of high-ranking officials including police chief Chris Tang, Chief Executive Carrie Lam and pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho were placed on the floor forming a hopscotch pattern for protesters to tread on and vent their anger. Some wielded “Hong Kong independence” flags.

Photo: Studio Incendo.

Demonstrators are demanding an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”

Photo: Studio Incendo.

At 8:50pm, 50 special tactical officers stormed into the area from police vehicles parked at Castle Peak Road, prompting the crowd to retreat from the main road.

An HKFP reporter on the scene witnessed a blind person with a walking stick being knocked over by the group of officers.

Protesters blocked traffic with garbage and metal fencing removed from the pavements at the junction of Yau San Street and Fau Tsoi Street. They also set debris alight near Kin Yip Street.

Around 100 riot police and special tactical officers stopped and searched passersby including District Councillor Lam Chun near Kin Yip Street Playground, as they repeatedly asked reporters to move back.

Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Tear gas was deployed at least twice during the evening – on Hop Yick Road at around 8:50pm and around Fung Kam Street 30 minutes later.

Photo: inmediahk.net.

At around 9:15pm, Yuen Long District Council Chair Zachary Wong was arrested at Yuen Long MTR station. According to InMedia, he was searched by police officers and was asked to show his ID card. With his arms bent behind his back, the police officer said Wong was resisting so was arrested, InMedia reported.

Zachary Wong arrested. Photo: inmedia.net.

He was released at around 3am, District Councillor Wilber Lee said on Facebook.

‘Arbitrary arrest’

An hour after Wong was arrested, Yuen Long District Council’s democrats published a joint statement to “condemn police abuse.” The wrote that dozens of district councillors had arrived on the scene to monitor the situation as there were claims online that certain parties were ready to “defend their homeland” – a phrase used by lawmaker Junius Ho to justify the 2019 mob attack.

A man at Yuen Long Yau San Street holds signs saying: “721 Triad,” “Collusion between HKPF and Gangster. Gangster State 21-7-2019.” Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

“The police dispersal and unreasonable arrest of Yuen Long District Council chair Zachary Wong are the equivalent of blatantly trampling upon public representatives… Arbitrary arrests have irreversibly exacerbated police-public relations…” the statement read.

Later in the evening, chairs and vice-chairs of 17 district councils and democrats of Islands council co-signed the statement.

Ronson Chan of Stand News is pepper-sprayed. Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

Throughout the night, pepper spray was frequently deployed. A number of reporters, including Ronson Chan from Stand News, and pro-democracy lawmakers Ted Hui and Roy Kwong were hit.

Ted Hui is pepper sprayed. Photo: Studio Incendo.

A group of pro-democracy Yuen Long and Tuen Mun district councillors including Henry Wong, went to Yuen Long police station to support around 60 people who had been arrested. Wong told HKFP that one of those arrested had tested positive for Covid-19 during his detention.

Causeway Bay

Meanwhile on Hong Kong Island, protesters also called for sit-ins in Causeway Bay and Chai Wan to commemorate the mob attack.

Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

Police officers stopped and searched dozens of passersby at Causeway Bay MTR station.

Riot police deployed pepper spray outside Times Square mall to disperse demonstrators.

Police chief Chris Tang said in an interview with Ming Pao last Monday that there was room for improvement with regards to the police operation last July. Quicker response, deployment, communication and explanations were among areas that could be improved.

Chris Tang. File photo: RTHK screenshot.

He also told Now TV on Saturday that some complaints made against the police among the 1,600 files were confirmed to be factually true.

Latest

Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.