Hong Kong Protesters Gather to Remember Mob Attack in Yuen Long

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hongkong-protest.jpg Office workers and protesters gather during a pro-democracy demonstration in a mall in the central district of Hong Kong, Feb. 21, 2020.

Hundreds of people gathered in malls and public places in Hong Kong on Friday in renewed protests against the city's police force for failing to respond promptly to a mob attack on train passengers at the Yuen Long train station last June.

Holding banners that read "Never forgive, never forget," protesters gathered in the Central business district's Landmark mall. Others carried the banner of the pro-democracy movement, which reads "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution in our time!"

Similar protests were planned in Causeway Bay, Tai Koo and Quarry Bay districts on Hong Kong Island, with large numbers of riot police dispatched to Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay across the harbor.

"Move it! Move along please! The police are working!" one police officer yelled at journalists filming their advance along a street in Kowloon Bay, raising a riot shield above his head. "Move back there!" shouted another.

Meanwhile, social media photos showed protesters holding placards and "Revolution in our time" banners at a protest in Yolo Mall next to Yuen Long MTR.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who was attacked by gang members in white T-shirts at Yuen Long MTR station in the New Territories, said the attack was a turning point in the public's attitude to the police.

"After that, Hong Kong people no longer believed in the police force any more," Lam told government broadcaster RTHK. "I think it is very crucial for Hong Kong to find out the whole truth of the Yuen Long attack, why the police didn't deploy any officers to prevent the attack from happening."

Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) operator closed its Yuen Long station on Friday.

The white-clad attackers -- some of whom were later confirmed to have links to Hong Kong's criminal gangs, the triads -- laid into passers-by and passengers on a train in the station on June 21, 2019, beating them up with rods and sticks and leaving 45 people in hospital.

White-shirted mob ran amok

Hong Kong police failed to respond to more than 24,000 emergency calls from the area as the white-shirted mob ran amok, bludgeoning passengers for 39 minutes before police arrived on the scene, leaving 45 people in hospital.

Video footage at the time showed police officers chatting to men who closely resembled the attackers.

The MTR Corp. said it would close Yuen Long Station at 5.00 p.m. local time to "ensure the safety of its passengers and staff."

Anson Chan, who was second-in-command of the city under the British colonial administration, hit out on Thursday at chief executive Carrie Lam for her "arrogance" in dealing with the protest movement that rocked the city over several months last year.

"Everything seems to have come too little and too late," Chan said, who was also referring to Lam's response to the coronavirus epidemic.

"Personally, my conclusion is that unless the chief executive steps down or Beijing removes her, there will be no prospect of rebuilding Hong Kong."

Amnesty International said in an annual report that Hong Kong protesters are 'bloodied but not broken' in the wake of abusive policing tactics for which the authorities have yet to be held accountable.

It said the Hong Kong protest movement, which began in June 2019 with mass popular opposition to extradition to mainland China, had demanded accountability in spite of increasingly harsh treatment by the authorities

Last month, eight victims of the attack sued the city's chief of police over the force's inaction over the Yuen Long attacks.

Doubts about 'one country, two systems' framework

Police have said the protesters had "provoked" the attackers, but there is scant evidence on video footage to support this view.

Thirty-seven people, some of whom have links to triad organizations, were arrested in the wake of the attack, and seven of them face charges of "rioting."

Under the "one country, two systems" framework agreed before the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, Hong Kong was promised the maintenance of its freedoms of speech, assembly and political participation.

The protests that erupted in June 2019 in response to plans to allow extradition to mainland China were largely triggered by the erosion of those freedoms, particularly following a series of high-profile interventions by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the city's political life, including the debarring of pro-democracy lawmakers and would-be election candidates for their political views.

Beijing also decreed that while it would allow Hongkongers to each have a vote in popular elections, they would only be allowed to choose from among candidates approved by China.

Millions of pro-democracy supporters have taken to Hong Kong's streets with demands for a public inquiry into police violence, fully democratic elections, an amnesty for thousands of arrested protesters, and an end to the use of the word "rioters" to describe the movement.

While Lam formally withdrew hated amendments to the city's laws that would have allowed extradition to mainland China in October, protesters slammed her response as too little, too late, and demanded she address the rapid erosion of the city's promised freedoms.

Frontline protesters, eyewitnesses, journalists and human rights groups have repeatedly said that the majority of violence during the protests has originated with the Hong Kong police, who have been widely criticized for the excessive use of tear gas, water cannon, pepper spray, as well as both non-lethal and live ammunition weapons on unarmed protesters.

Around one third of adults in Hong Kong have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the protest movement escalated last June, according to a mental health survey published in The Lancet this month, which said the incidence of psychiatric problems was similar to those usually associated with war zones or terrorist attacks.

Reported by Lau Siu-fung and Pan Jiaqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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