A Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker who was charged with rioting over a mob attack at Yuen Long MTR station last July has been freed on bail, as the city’s police chief denied that the force was trying to rewrite historical facts surrounding the violence.
Over 100 citizens dressed in black shirts applauded and chanted slogans as Democratic Party legislator Lam Cheuk-ting and six others accused of rioting left the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday. Lam slammed the case as “political prosecution,” and accused the government of “telling lies” to “alter” the incident.
“What happened on July 21 last year was clearly shown in a live stream video on my Facebook, page. It is ironclad evidence,” Lam said.
The incident was seen as a turning point in months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests. More than 100 rod-wielding men clad in white – some with connections to triads – attacked civilians and journalists along with some protesters inside and around Yuen Long’s MTR station. The democratic legislator was among 45 people injured.
Police were widely accused of turning a blind eye to the attack and failing to take effective action to stop it. But a senior regional officer gave a new version of events on Wednesday.
Senior Superintendent Chan Tin-chu of the New Territories North headquarters’ crime squad said the public had been misled by “one-sided live streams” into seeing the incident as an indiscriminate attack. The officer described the violence as a clash between two gangs that were “equally-matched”.
Supporters of Lam outside the courthouse held placards reading “Ridiculous, the plaintiff has become the accused” and “People will not forget, history must not be altered”.
A Yuen Long resident who gave her name as Sophie told HKFP she had received messages hours before the attack warning that triad members would show up in the area. She said she stayed away from home that night as a result and was shocked by the events that unfolded.
“I’m extremely infuriated by the police account of the incident. After this unimaginable incident, police could still tell such absurd lies to give a totally different description,” she said.
Lam and the other accused must surrender travel documents and report to the police station while on bail. The prosecution asked that the case be adjourned to October 12, adding that police are hunting down at least 20 people involved.
Lam faced a separate count of attempting to pervert the course of justice in connection with a protest near Tuen Mun Park on July 26 last year. Another Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui faces the same charge over the same incident, as well as one count of access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent, and criminal damage.
“We have no fears, regrets or complaints,” Hui told reporters, adding he and others would continue to work to protect citizens.
Police chief Chris Tang, responding at a press conference on Thursday to the senior superintendent’s controversial remarks, described them as unnecessary. Tang refused to say whether the incident in Yuen Long was an indiscriminate attack but said officers should focus on facts and evidence.
“I think officers should focus on the facts and evidence… some unnecessary description would lead to different speculation,” he said.
Regarding Chan’s claim that officers had arrived at the scene in 18 minutes, as opposed to the 39 minutes stated in an earlier police account and a report by the Independent Police Complaints Council, Tang said Chan was referring to the arrival time of the quick reaction force.
“From the moment we received calls to the time when we deployed the quick reaction force to the scene, it was roughly 30 minutes. We think [the response time] is not ideal,” Tang said.
He denied accusations the force was trying to “alter history”, adding: “Police have no intention to rewrite history, because history will pass a fair judgement [on the incident].”