Former reporter Gwyneth Ho – who was injured while live-streaming the Yuen Long mob attacks last July – has rejected police claims that her video was “biased,” slamming the force as “distorting the truth.”
On Wednesday morning, police arrested 13 more men, including Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, on suspicion of “rioting” during the attacks. On July 21, 2019, over 100 white-clad assailants – some with triad connections – assaulted protesters, commuters and journalists with rods and other weapons inside and around Yuen Long’s MTR station. Lam was among the 45 people injured.
At a press briefing following the arrests, New Territories North (Crime) Senior Superintendent Chan Tin-chu said that two “biased live-stream” videos were “misleading” the public into seeing the incident as an “indiscriminate attack.”
Ex-Stand News reporter Ho broadcast the incident live on Facebook and was seen being beaten up by white-shirted men in the clip. She said her video had reflected the truth as it was a continuous stream that was running for around an hour.
She said she walked around the MTR station that night in a yellow press vest with her credentials, and filmed the situation at almost all exits.
“Through my lens, I captured white-clad and black-clad people, as well as civilians. The only thing I did not capture was the police who were absent from the scene,” Ho told reporters.
When asked if she was worried about being arrested, the ex-journalist said she believed that, as a witness to the attacks, she had a duty to speak out: “If talking about the truth is considered a crime under this regime, police can come arrest me at anytime.”
The Hong Kong police have been accused of condoning and colluding with the attackers, as uniformed officers were seen walking away from the scene while emergency calls went unanswered. Nearby police stations shut their gates. But Chan dismissed the claims and said the some “ill-intended people” had slandered the force.
Chan also described the attacks as a “clash” between two gangs, which he said were “evenly-matched” and “equally equipped” during the confrontation. Such a description echoed police account noted in a report released by the Independent Complaints Council (IPCC) in May, which said the attacks started off as a “gang fight.”
It contradicted an early official account by government, however, as top officials – including Chief Executive Carrie Lam – described the Yuen Long attacks as “shocking.”
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said on July 26 last year: “Thugs arbitrarily attacked unarmed citizens in Yuen Long MTR station – such behaviour is outrageous.”
Former president of the Law Society of Hong Kong Stephen Hung said on Thursday that if police deemed the incident to be a fight between two gangs, it may not be necessary to press rioting charges.
Speaking on RTHK’s Millennium, Hung said a gang fight was already a serious assault case, and the prosecution would usually press charges that have a higher chance of conviction: “Based on my understanding, it is not that common to use the rioting charge [when there are two gangs fighting].”
Hung added that people who remained at an illegal assembly involving violence could face risk of arrest, except for some professions such as journalists and medics. It would be up to the court to decide whether the person indicted had a reasonable explanation for showing up at the scene.
“If you stay behind, you may be seen as encouraging people who are breaking the law, who are participating in a riot to carry on the illegal acts,” he said.
Local barrister Randy Shek, on the other hand, said on the same programme that he deemed the rioting charge could be used easily nowadays in protest-related cases: “What is left to see is whether the Department of Justice will use this ‘big hammer’.”