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Hong Kong police arrest opposition lawmakers who criticized them

Hong Kong Police (Studio Incendo/WikiCommons)
August 28, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Police in Hong Kong on Wednesday arrested two pro-democracy lawmakers who have been strongly critical of police violence during last year’s protest movement, as the city’s Democratic Party condemned the move as a form of political intimidation.

Ted Hui and Lam Cheuk-ting, both Democratic Party members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo), were taken away from their homes at about 6. a.m., the party said via social media.

The charges are believed to be in connection with a July 6 protest and the July 21, 2019 mob attack by white-shirted thugs on train passengers at Yuen Long MTR station, during which Lam was attacked and injured.

Police said they had arrested four people in connection with a dispute between bystanders and a man seen taking photos of protesters outside Tuen Mun police station, adding that someone had snatched away the man’s phone and deleted the pictures during the incident.

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Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said the arrests were a form of political retaliation amid ongoing police attempts to change the widely accepted narrative surrounding the July 21 attacks in Yuen Long.

Hui and Lam have been vocal critics of the police’s failure to respond to the attacks for more than 30 minutes, as well as photos and video footage of officers speaking to the perpetrators on the day of the attacks.

Hong Kong police on Wednesday insisted that two livestreams of the Yuen Long attacks had missed alleged attacks on the white-shirted attackers by a “rival group wearing black,” the color worn by many protesters.

Senior superintendent Chan Tin-chu also claimed that footage of police officers patting a white-shirted man on the shoulder actually depicted them shoving him, in a bid to move the group on.

Chan insisted that the two live-video streams of the rampage did not show the whole picture of what he described as a clash between rival groups with people dressed in both black and white taking part in the fighting.

Witnesses dispute police claims

The claims were immediately dismissed by journalists and eyewitnesses.

Former TV presenter Ryan Lau, who was pictured on the night of the attacks bleeding from the head, has since written a book titled Dark Night in Yuen Long filled with more than 40 eyewitness accounts, which reconstructs the sequence of events leading up to and including the attacks.

“I saw Lam Cheuk-ting at the scene, and he was there to monitor events [in his capacity as lawmaker],” Lau told RFA on Wednesday. “He was telling bystanders not to touch anything that could be used as evidence, and said he had called the cops, who would be arriving soon.”

“At the same time, the guys in white were gathering outside the ticket barriers, shouting insults and attacking people inside; Lam Cheuk-ting was right there at the front [of those being attacked],” he said.

“Some people tried to protect him with open umbrellas, because they were throwing stuff into the station from outside,” he said.

“The standoff went on until just after 11.00 p.m., when the thugs in white came through the barrier and went after the people in the station, attacking them,” Lau said.

Jimmy Choi, a reporter for government broadcaster RTHK said via Twitter, reposting video of the encounter: “#HK police now say a riot officer ‘pushed’ a white-shirted man, instead of ‘patting him on the shoulder,’ in Yuen Long in the small hours after the July 21 mob attack. Well, let the image speaks for itself.”

Eyewitness and journalist Gwyneth Ho hit back at claims that her reporting of the incident had been “one-sided.”

“As one of the few named witnesses of what happened that day, I am obliged to tell the truth,” Ho told journalists in comments reported by Agence France-Presse reporter Xinqi Su on Twitter. “If telling the truth is a crime under this regime, the police can come and arrest me any time,” she said.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To said the authorities were trying to “turn white into black” with the arrest of Lam, a victim of the attacks, while Wu said the authorities were “pointing to a deer and calling it a horse,” a Chinese expression that indicates total denial of the truth.

Misleading the public

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung said the police were trying to mislead the public.

“The truth will always be the truth,” Yeung said. “Right-thinking members of Hong Kong society know what happened on July 21 last year in Yuen Long, so attempts to … rewrite history will not be successful.”

More than 100 men clad in white T-shirts and armed with rods and poles attacked bystanders, protesters, journalists, and lawmakers in Yuen Long MTR station that night, injuring at least 45 people, including a pregnant woman.

It came immediately after anti-extradition protesters surrounded the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s Central Liaison Office in Sheung Wan, throwing projectiles at the building and defacing China’s national emblem.

That protest marked a turning point in Beijing’s attitude to the protests, which began a month earlier after Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam tried to push legal amendments through LegCo that would have allowed the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China.

Meanwhile, executives at Next Media, which publishes Jimmy Lai’s pro-democracy newspaper the Apple Daily, have been prevented from using their credit cards or accessing their bank accounts by the British-owned bank HSBC.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move was the result of “bullying tactics” employed by Beijing against the U.K. and its companies.

“Free nations must ensure that corporate interests are not suborned by the CCP to aid its political repression,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.