A commemoration of three months since a mob attack in Yuen Long on Monday descended into chaos as police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and protesters threw petrol bombs.
A white-clad mob with links to triads indiscriminately attacked passengers and passers-by in and around Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, injuring more than 40.
The police have been accused of colluding with gangs after distress calls went unanswered and footage emerged appearing to show officers speaking with men in white but failing to arrest them. Of the 34 men later arrested in connection with the attack, only six were charged with rioting.
Residents staged a sit-in at MTR stations – including Yuen Long, Tseung Kwan O, Tai Koo and Tuen Mun stations – at 7pm on Monday to commemorate the July 21 incident. The rail operator closed Yuen Long station at 2pm.
Dozens also congregated at Yoho Mall – which closed at 5pm – next to Yuen Long station. The gathering later spilt out onto surrounding roads.
Crowds chanted, “July 21, people disappeared, August 31, people were beaten to death, October 1, people were shot,” and “Disband the police force now!”
Castle Peak Road was obstructed by roadblocks at around 7:50pm. Ten minutes later police announced an impending clearance operation and called the protest an unauthorised assembly.
In an exchange captured by Apple Daily, a resident asked a group of police, “Where were you on July 21?”. An officer replied, saying, “Your voice is too soft, I can’t hear you.”
In a statement issued at around 10pm, the police said protesters had hurled hard objects at officers and vandalised bank facilities in the vicinity of Tai Tong Road.
“Police are now using the minimum force necessary to disperse rioters. Tear gas has been deployed. Police warn the rioters to stop their illegal acts immediately,” it read. “Police now appeal to members of the public to stay tuned to the latest situation, keep windows closed if necessary, stay indoors and avoid travelling to the area concerned.”
Around 40 people turned up to berate protesters using a loudspeaker. Apple Daily reported that some of those people threw objects and poured liquid on protesters, while others swore at and shoved reporters.
Meanwhile, officers and bystanders fired insults at each other. In a video filmed by Stand News, a woman said that two officers had ordered her to leave in two opposing directions and, when she confronted them on which way to go, an officer said, “Use your brain.”
Multiple rounds of tear gas were fired at around 9:30pm, and intermittently afterwards. Officers also searched several residents on the street and made one arrest.
A Cable TV reporter was struck by a tear gas canister and appeared to momentarily lose consciousness. She was carried away by volunteer medics after suffering an asthma attack, local media reported.
As onlookers tried to ask an arrested woman for her name, officers said in jest “Miriam Yeung” and “Kay Tse” – the names of Cantopop stars.
Police dogs were also brought out onto the streets as tear gas was being fired.
Residents urged officers to take the dogs away since they were not protected against the effects of the tear gas. An officer was filmed saying: “If I don’t bring it here, should I bring it to the playground?”
Hong Kong Animal Post – an animal rights-focused online media outlet – has accused the police of abusing their service dogs.
Petrol bombs were also thrown towards the Sap Pat Heung Rural Committee office.
Meanwhile, at Tsuen Wan’s Lennon Wall – the name given to large pro-democracy message boards – outside the MTR station, riot police arrested two youths for allegedly graffitiing. Stand News reported that officers had fired pepper spray at heckling crowds on the scene.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung defended his earlier comments telling the public to “move on” from the July 21 attack.