Some witnesses and victims of the Yuen Long mob attack three years ago have decided to leave Hong Kong, a new documentary marking the anniversary of the incident has revealed.

On July 21, 2019, over 100 rod-wielding men – with alleged links to organised crime – stormed Yuen Long MTR station, indiscriminately attacking civilians. Among the 45 people injured were journalists, protesters, commuters and ex-lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting. Other altercations took place in the area, as white-clad men with sticks chased after people following a day of pro-democracy protests and unrest in the city.

Unknown men in white attacking train passengers in Yuen Long.

The documentary “721 An Unresolved Case,” produced by a group of independent journalists, was released late on Tuesday night, two days before the third anniversary of the watershed moment which was seen as deepening mistrust between the public and police.

The film interviewed three men who witnessed the incident, as they revisited the scene – two of them had sustained injuries from the day.

Rod-wielding men entered Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019. Photo: RTHK.

The Hong Kong Police Force stood accused of colluding with the attackers and were criticised for arriving at the scene 39 minutes after initial reports. Few arrests were made, and uniformed officers were spotted walking away from the station whilst nearby police stations shut their gates.

The force has denied claims of collusion, though official accounts of the incident have changed multiple times over the years – from initial condemnation, to calling the attack an “evenly matched” standoff.

Departure of witnesses

“We’re about to leave Hong Kong around August,” said one of the interviewees, Galileo, who says in the film that he was beaten by a group of white-clad men inside the train station while trying to help a journalist. He and his wife were subpoenaed to testify in a court case related to the attack: “So we have to inform the police about our absence immediately.”

Galileo revisiting Yuen Long station, where he was beaten by a group of white-clad men on July 21, 2019. Photo: Screenshot via 721 An Unresolved Case.

When asked if he had any regrets, “Not really, what I have to say has already been said. There will be nothing new to tell the police.”

Galileo said his wife filmed the incident in 4K resolution on her phone, and the faces of the assailants could be clearly seen. They submitted the videos to police but said the clips were not used in the first court case.

Photo: Screenshot via 721 An Unresolved Case.

Another interviewee, who asked to remain anonymous, said he suspected he was being harassed and stalked after he disclosed security camera footage that showed hundreds of stick-wielding men gathering in Yuen Long amid apparent police inaction.

He said he had no choice but to leave Hong Kong.

“I don’t want the truth about the incident to never be known. If no one dares to provide any evidence, the truth will never be known… Although it seems the truth isn’t out so far, I’ve at least tried to reveal a grain of the truth to the world.”

Little action

The Yuen Long mob attack came on the heels of the large scale protests that erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition amendment bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

Three years went by, but so far only some 60-odd people were arrested, and only seven people have been convicted and jailed for their role in the attacks. Authorities have repeatedly said they continue to investigate the incident.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.