Hong Kong police have dismissed claims that they colluded with criminal gangs during the Yuen Long mob attacks last year. They also disputed the apparent slow response by police and claimed that live-streams of the incident were biased.

Photo: Screenshot.

New Territories North (Crime) Senior Superintendent Chan Tin-chu was briefing the press on Wednesday about the arrest of 13 men aged 26 to 48 – including Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who was detained on suspicion of rioting during the attacks. Last July 21, over 100 white-clad assailants – some with triad backgrounds – indiscriminately attacked passengers, protesters, journalists and commuters inside and around Yuen Long’s MTR station.

Chan said that those arrested did not need to be involved in committing any assault in order to be deemed to be “rioting.” They only needed to be among three or more people whose conduct is either disorderly, threatening, abusive or provocative in a manner likely to breach the peace.

Chan rejected accusations that the police condoned the mob’s violence and potentially colluded with triads. He made reference to a widely circulated clip showing riot police officers touching the shoulder of an alleged attacker, saying that it was a misrepresentation of a gesture urging the men to leave: “The act of pushing them was an order for them to leave. But it was distorted by ill-intended people who slandered the force as colluding with the triads.”

When challenged by reporters as to why the force did not jot down the personal details of the white-clad men, Chan evaded the question and referred to earlier demonstrations in Sheung Wan that afternoon.

He went on to claim that the Yuen Long attack involved two evenly-matched parties of different views, denying that it was an indiscriminate attack initiated by the assailants. He added that he thought a biased live-stream video had misled the public.

He also reversed the force’s earlier admission that it took officers 39 minutes to arrive at the MTR station following emergency calls and claimed that quick reaction force officers responded within 18 minutes.

Chan Tin-chu. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Gwyneth Ho – an ex-reporter with Stand News who was injured on the night while live-streaming the attack – responded to Chan’s claim on Facebook: “How should a person who is being beaten up film themselves? If it was not indiscriminate, was it an act targeting reporters?” she asked.

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho – who was seen shaking hands with alleged attackers on the night – said on Facebook that Lam’s arrest was exciting news. He later told the press at the legislature that he welcomed the arrests: “Justice may be delayed but will not be absent.”

He added that he was furious about the Democratic Party’s criticism of the police operation.

‘Altered history’

Yuen Long district councillors also met the press following Chan’s remarks and released a statement strongly condemning the force for allegedly obscuring the facts and turning Lam – a plaintiff – into a defendant.

“A year from the Yuen Long July 21 incident, most Hongkongers understood from live-streams that white-clad rioters indiscriminately attacked civilians. Police officers of all ranks turned a blind eye to the attack and – worse – rolled down the gate of the police station and allowed the white-clad rioters to rage in Yuen Long. Police-triad collusion is known to everyone.”

“The police force use all kinds of arbitrary arrests to cover up their cowardice and shame in order to rationalise themselves. They altered history and erased facts so as to change public opinions, boost the force’s morale and comfort themselves,” the statement read.

See also: How the official account of the Yuen Long mob attack changed over a year

They also claimed that the incident was a premeditated “terrorist attack” initiated by the authorities to suppress the pro-democracy movement.

Photo: RTHK GIF capture.

The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) published a report in May which gave focus to the Yuen Long incident. In the report, police said the public were “misled” into seeing the attacks as a “one-sided indiscriminate terrorist attack.” The IPCC, which lacks investigative powers, cleared the force of misconduct over the incident but said there were “inadequacies” in collecting and collating actionable intelligence in a timely manner.

July 6 demo

Also on Wednesday, Police also arrested three males and one female aged 27 to 43 – including Lam and another Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui – over another protest last year. They were detained on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent, destroying or damaging property and unlawful assembly. The force accused the four of grabbing a mobile phone that belonged to a person allegedly taking photos during the “Reclaim Tuen Mun Park” demonstration last July 6.

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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.