A former lawmaker and victims of the 2019 Yuen Long mob attack have given up their civil case against the police commissioner.

Lam Cheuk-ting and eight people who were injured in the attack filed the lawsuit in January last year against Police Commissioner Chris Tang, alleging that officers had not fulfilled their duties by allowing the attacks to continue and failing to maintain public order. 

Democratic Party
(From left to right) Lam Cheuk-ting’s lawyer and former lawmaker Albert Ho, Lam’s representative Winfield Chong, and two alleged victims.

On July 21, 2019, over 100 rod-wielding men stormed Yuen Long MTR station leaving 45 people injured – including journalists, protesters, commuters and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting.

Police were criticised for responding slowly to the incident, with some officers seen leaving the scene or interacting with the white-clad men. The official account of the incident evolved over a year, with the authorities eventually claiming it was a “gang fight.”

Lam’s representative Winfield Chong said the former Democratic Party legislator had decided to drop the case after considering the legal fees, and the difficulty of conducting the case from prison. Lam has been in custody since February, when he was charged under the national security law.

Lam’s lawyer and former Democratic Party chair Albert Ho, said that it was difficult to take full instructions from Lam for his multiple charges, and that Lam felt “very tired having to attend all these particular matters”.

The former lawmaker was charged in February with “conspiring to commit subversion” along with 46 other democrats, over their participation in a primary election for the now-postponed Legislative Council election.

Yuen Long attacks
Unknown men in white attacking train passengers in Yuen Long.

Lam was also charged with rioting and disclosing the personal information of individuals being investigated by police in relation to the Yuen Long mob attack.

Better use of protest fund

As protest fund 612 Humanitarian Fund provided Lam with legal fees for the civil case, Ho said that the former lawmaker decided to drop the case to make better use of the fund for other people.

Ho added that after viewing the evidence for the case, he thought there was a reasonable chance that Lam would win, but the police had put a lot of effort into defending themselves, including hiring multiple senior counsel. The Department of Justice had also applied to have the case dismissed.

“The opponent on the other side is not only formidable, but they have unlimited resources, and they are crazy,” said Ho, adding that the government would use “every possible avenue” to try to delay the case and exhaust Lam’s financial resources.

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The lawyer also said that the case would have taken at least another year before the hearing would start, where Lam and other plaintiffs hoped to get more details of the lack of police deployment during the attack.

Ho added that they would have to pay a sum for the dropped case, but it would be a smaller amount compared with the legal fees they would have to bear if they lost the case.

Albert Ho
Albert Ho announcing that Lam Cheuk-ting was dropping the civil case against the police chief in a press conference on May 5, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“The purpose of the litigation is not purely to seek compensation, but to seek justice, and to compel full discovery of many of the facts and materials and information,” said Ho, “much of which are now being hidden by the police, and or withheld from disclosure to the public.”

Ho said that Lam would continue to seek the truth through his other cases, including one where the former lawmaker sued pro-establishment legislator Junius Ho for defamation.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.