Police have said that no arrests were made and no weapons were found when they checked a group of people in white accused of beating up residents, journalists and a lawmaker in Yuen Long. The incident took place on Sunday night, hours after an anti-extradition march ended on Hong Kong Island.
A group of assailants in white shirts, some masked, began attacking people at random using bamboo sticks and other weapons. According to the Hospital Authority, 45 people were injured, with one in a critical condition
Video footage shared on social media showed them singling out people dressed in black at Yuen Long’s MTR station concourse and platform, as well as on nearby streets. Though protesters on Hong Kong Island mainly wore black, many of those targeted in Yuen Long were merely passing by.
Police stood accused of failing to respond quickly to distress calls.
At a 5am press conference, Yau Nai-keung – assistant district commander of Crime Yuen Long – said that police began to receive calls about criminal intimidation at 10:41am, and that a patrol van was subsequently sent to Yuen Long West Rail station.
He said that around 100 people were gathered at the West Rail Line station and that a single van of officers was unable to handle the scene, so more were called to arrive with equipment.
Yau added that police also received reports of people “taking part in a fight” in Nam Pin Wai village. Officers in riot gear surrounded the village at 1am but did not take action until 3:30am. During the operation, people wearing white clothes appeared to be gathering weapons, according to a live RTHK feed, while others fled the scene in vehicles.
Yau said officers only entered the village when they could confirm there was no conflict at the scene. No arrests were made, as Yau said it could not be confirmed whether those in white were the ones who participated in fights.
“Just because a person is wearing white it doesn’t mean they participated in the fight. We cannot arrest them because of their clothes. We have to be fair to all sides. I cannot say people wearing black joined brawls either,” he said.
He said police were unable to take down all of the identity details of those in white: “We did take down their identity information but we couldn’t do it for all of them, just as we cannot jot down the identity information of more than 100 people dressed in black,” he said.
Yau said his colleagues did not see anyone holding weapons at the village.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was seen shaking hands with people wearing white in Yuen Long on Sunday evening, praising them as his heroes.
But in a video posted to Facebook after midnight, Ho said he was merely passing by after dinner and agreed to greet passersby requesting to take photos with him.
Meanwhile, US House Representative Jim McGovern, a co-chair of the Congressional Executive-Commission on China, condemned the “orchestrated violence against peaceful protesters” as unacceptable.
The orchestrated violence against peaceful protestors is unacceptable. Hong Kong authorities must protect the right to peacefully assemble and protest. The world is watching.
cc: @joshuawongcf @nathanlawkc @krislchttps://t.co/qvdZgen3cT
— Rep. Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) July 21, 2019
Pro-democracy district councillors will protest at the Yuen Long police station at 11:30am.
Pro-Beijing lawmakers will meet the press at 11.30am, whilst democrats will meet the press at 12.45pm.