Hong Kong's MTR Screenshots Do Little to Assuage Concerns Over Police Attack

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong meets with German foreign minister Heiko Maas, Sept. 9, 2019.

Authorities in Hong Kong on Tuesday hit out at 'malicious rumors' that someone died when riot police stormed the Prince Edward MTR station on Aug. 31, but the selective release of surveillance footage from cameras inside the station has done little to assuage public mistrust in the police.

Senior police superintendent Yolanda Yu hit out at the rumors of at least one death, which have led to hundreds of mourning bouquets being laid outside the station in Kowloon since the beginning of the month, saying that the reports were "malicious rumors.'

Senior assistant chief ambulance officer Lo Shun-tong told a joint news conference that the city's Fire Services Department had initially reported 10 casualties at the station, but later revised this down to seven.

"The ambulance incident officer tried to assess the number of injured persons, but found that they were at different locations of the platform, which also changed from time to time, making it rather difficult to conduct a headcount," Lo told journalists.

"After preliminary checking, the ambulance incident officer estimated that there were 10 injured persons at the scene," Lo said, adding that a later headcount had only found seven people who needed to go to hospital.

"Three of them were severely injured, two of them had normal injuries, and two were lightly injured," Lo said.

The MTR released still images showing an emergency evacuation procedure at 10.53 p.m. on Aug. 31, as well as clips from 11.04 p.m., 11.31 p.m., and 1.04 p.m. showing some injured people being taken away from Prince Edward and Yau Ma Tei stations.

Patients were also shown being transferred by train to Lai Chi Kok Station from Prince Edward between 1.35 a.m. and 1.49 a.m. on Sept. 1.

But the MTR didn't release any video footage of the raid by riot police on Prince Edward station, saying that some of the cameras had been damaged or painted over by protesters.

A fragmentary account

Claudia Mo, leader of the pro-democracy camp in the Legislative Council (LegCo) said such a fragmentary account of what happened on the night of Aug. 31 would do little to allay speculation over what really took place.

"The screenshots released by the MTR were only stills, and can't, when used selectively, reflect the actual series of events on the night of Aug. 31," Mo said.

"It will be hard to lay public doubt to rest without full release of the entire surveillance video by the MTR," she said.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To said it is strongly in the public interest for all available video footage to be made public and combed for evidence.

"If there are some videos that show up, for example, this will cause doubt, especially if there are several injured people whose whereabouts are unknown; they could even have died," To said.

"If they are seen going through the gates [into the station], then the clips ought also to show their final position, and who was dealing with them," he said. "That way, we can all work to confirm collectively and definitively whether any deaths took place."

But Frankie Ngan, chairman of the youth wing of the pro-China Democratic Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said there were too many people caught on camera to make all of the footage available.

"I don't think it would be appropriate to release all of it," Ngan said. "Maybe it should go through existing institutions such as the police and the courts, who should view the footage."

'Unnecessary interference'

Meanwhile, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said that a Hong Kong human rights bill before U.S. Congress is an inappropriate and unnecessary interference in the city's affairs.

The bipartisan bill, introduced to both the House of Representatives and the Senate in June, would require the U.S. government to block entry to officials in China and Hong Kong responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong, and to freeze their assets in the United States.

The leaderless anti-extradition movement has been increasingly vocal in its support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a 2017 bill by Marco Rubio and Chris Smith, co-chairmen of Congressional Executive Commission on China that would "establish punitive measures against government officials in Hong Kong or mainland China who are responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong."

Tens of thousands of people marched outside the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong on Sunday calling for the bill's swift passage through Congress.

Lam said: "The Hong Kong government does not recognize and expresses regret to parliaments in foreign countries interfering in Hong Kong affairs through a bill."

"Hong Kong is a special administration region under the People's Republic of China," she said.

"Any interference by foreign parliaments is extremely inappropriate, and we will not permit them to be a stakeholder in Hong Kong's internal affairs."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also hit out at German foreign minister Heiko Maas for meeting with 2014 pro-democracy protest leader Joshua Wong on Monday.

'A new Cold War'

China has lodged a "solemn protest" with Germany for allowing Wong—who the ruling Chinese Communist Party regards as a 'separatist'— to enter the country to take part in anti-China activities, while expressing "strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition" to Maas' meeting with him.

Wong, who was briefly rearrested as he tried to leave Hong Kong, said in a video message from the Bild100-Fest marking the fall of the Berlin Wall: "We are now standing between the free world and the dictatorship of China. If we are in the new cold war, Hong Kong is the new Berlin."

"We urge the free world to stand together with us in resisting the autocratic Chinese regime," he said. "We Hong Kongers are not just fighting this uphill battle for our own, the world and we are all in this together."

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing and Man Hoi-tsan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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