Hong Kong police rounded up six more men on Thursday in connection with the mob attacks in Yuen Long last July. It brings the total arrest figure to 43 following criticism that the force has failed to properly investigate the incident.
The force said at a press conference that the six men – some with triad connections – were arrested on suspicion of rioting and conspiracy to wound with intent. Senior Superintendent Chan Tin-chu of the New Territories North headquarters’ crime squad said police have been proactively investigating the case, but he did not reveal exactly what the suspects were accused of doing.
Chan also did not disclose the exact locations of where the alleged crimes took place, despite repeated questions from reporters. He only said that “violent clashes” happened in the Yuen Long MTR station and adjacent areas, including Fung Yau Street North, Ying Lung Wai and Nam Pin Wai.
“No matter what the identity, background or political standpoint [of the perpetrator] is, as long as there is evidence to prove someone has violated the law, police will enforce the law persistently and impartially,” Chan said.
On July 21, 2019, over 100 rod-wielding men stormed the Yuen Long MTR station and indiscriminately attacked civilians and commuters, leaving 45 injured. Several other beatings took place in the area, as white-clad men were seen chasing people with sticks.
Police have been accused of colluding with the attackers and criticised for their delayed arrival at the scene. Some uniformed officers were spotted walking away from the station as emergency calls went unanswered and neighbouring police stations shut their gates.
Last month, the force admitted that plainclothes officers were present in Yuen Long before the attacks. It said officers were there to survey the situation and conduct risk assessments for operational planning. This came after public broadcaster RTHK uncovered footage that appeared to show at least one plainclothes officer walking past a group of white-shirted men with different kinds of weapons in their hands.
On the anniversary of the attack, the force said it has been “thoroughly investigating” the case and further arrests would be made “when the time is ripe.” When asked why it took the force a long time to make arrests, Chan said on Thursday that the case involved a lot of people, and officers needed time to process the evidence to ensure it could meet the “prosecution standards.”
“The investigation has been constantly updated and we have met with the Department of Justice many times to examine the case details,” he said.
The senior superintendent added there was no time limit on criminal case investigations – once the force has gathered sufficient evidence, officers will take action: “No matter what corner of the world they hide, police will hunt them down.”
So far, seven out of the 43 arrested people have been charged for offences including rioting and conspiracy to wound with intent. The cases are tried in the District Court, which caps the maximum sentence for rioting at seven years.