Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of Yuen Long mob attack, where more than 100 white-clad assailants with triad connections indiscriminately attacked commuters and passersby at an MTR station. Hundreds turned up to commemorate the event that took place on July 21 last year.

Demonstrators release some black and white balloons to the ceiling of Yuen Long’s Yoho Mall on July 21, 2020. The balloons carry two banners that read “police triad collusion” and “do not forget 7.21.” Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

HKFP spoke to five individuals about how the incident impacted them.

‘Couldn’t escape’

Citizen journalist Galileo Cheng was on his way home when he saw dozens of people brandishing weapons fill the Yuen Long MTR platform: “It was 10:44 pm. I knew I couldn’t escape from it,” he told HKFP.

He attempted to exit the light rail station. Passing through the concourse, he saw a pool of blood and broken wooden rods on the floor.

“Seconds later, I saw water bottles, bamboo canes and umbrellas fly through the air. It lasted for ten minutes.”

He saw a live streaming journalist with no protective gear exit through the turnstile and become the target of a man in a pink shirt, who rushed to beat her.

Cheng wrapped his arms around her and attempted to use his backpack to protect them: “I later saw cracks in my helmet from absorbing the impacts,” he said. “Some people were using a fire hose to defend themselves, so I asked if they could help clean the blood in my mouth.”

He refuted pro-Beijing politicians’ claim that Yuen Long residents were simply defending their home against troublemakers: “[We are] innocent. Most of us there were on our way home… There were some residents who came by to help, but that was all.”

He said it took one to two months for his wounds to heal and he had not suffered much psychological trauma; however, he was shocked by the police’s “laid-back” attitude during the investigation.

“I can still revisit the scene and point out where I bled. But there are victims who cannot bear to go to Yuen Long to this day.”

Galileo Cheng. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Upon the request of police, he gave a 6,000-word testimony and went to identify suspects twice: “We [the victims] did everything we could. No one has given us any updates about the investigation. We are speechless.”

‘Scar’ exhibition

On the anniversary of the attack, Yuen Long District Councillor Willis Fong unveiled a mini multimedia exhibition at his office titled “Scar.” He told HKFP that although many documentaries and infographics had been created on the incident, he wanted to curate a display that was experimental and physical.

Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

It featured quotations from attackers and police officers posted on walls, such as “Do not come out if you are scared” and “I’m not sure if there was a delay [to our arrival,] I couldn’t see my watch.” It also included an MTR announcement, “All passengers, please leave the carriage,” as well as victims quoted as saying “Please close the door and drive” and “We are Hongkongers.”

Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

In the background played a medley of voices from live streams: “We had a discussion among ourselves,” Fong said. ” We did not wish to over sentimentalise the incident so we carefully selected different voices and moments from the night.”

He said the curators did not want certain figures to dominate the picture, including incumbent pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, who was filmed praising and giving the thumbs up to some white-clad men that night.

Born and raised in Yuen Long, Fong said he wanted to preserve the memory of the event: “I believe post-traumatic distress will be hard to erase.”

He added although he was not in town during the attack, he “did not wish its memory to be fleeting and slowly forgotten by those who did not go through the trauma.”

Willis Fong. File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

“The incident will remain a thorn that continues to prick so long as the assailants are free from investigation and arrest.”

Press freedom

Student journalist Hei-lam, who declined to give her surname, told HKFP the mob attack was integral to her decision to pursue frontline journalism in January.

Hei Lam. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

She recalled watching attackers target journalists on live streams: “Before, I thought news reporting was something mundane. But when I saw people intentionally preventing journalists from doing their job, I realised how valuable it was,” she said. “It highlighted the importance of press freedom in Hong Kong. I wish to defend it.”

Hei-lam was among dozens of citizen journalists without press accreditation from the Hong Kong Journalists Association to be hit with a HK$2,000 fine for violating Covid-19 gathering restrictions on Tuesday.

‘Truth revealed’

Yuen Long District Councillor Tommy Cheung, who chaired a working group on the mob attack, told HKFP the group has faced multiple hurdles since its founding more than six months ago.

Tommy Cheung. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

He told HKFP the government has refused to green-light meeting venues, earmark funding or recognise the legitimacy of the group: “[The Home Affairs Department] said the matter was beyond the district council level.”

He added a passed motion to set up the group has been documented in official meeting minutes, however, the group has not been listed on the district council website.

“We anticipated the government’s oppression. It is blatantly trampling on popular democratic opinion,” he said. “We have yet to have the truth revealed… We want to present a report that showcases victims’ voices but unfortunately, we have been unable to do so.”

File photo: HKFP.

Cheung said the mob attack prompted him to stand in last November’s district council election, which saw the democratic camp win a landslide victory.

‘Tragedy’

A man – surnamed Chan – who has lived in Yuen Long for more than 20 years, told HKFP the attack was a “tragedy” that has left an indelible mark on the community: “It will forever remain a scar on Hong Kong’s history,” adding that it had altered his impression of the police as law-abiding and orderly.

Mr Chan. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

He said he was dissatisfied with official accounts of the event, which have changed throughout the year: “But what else is there to do?”

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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.