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Yuen Long Attack: The Day That Changed Hong Kong Forever

Pro-democracy advocate Lo Kin-hei spoke to VICE the day his fellow democratic party lawmakers were arrested in Hong Kong. This is his account of that fateful day in Yuen Long a year ago.
August 27, 2020, 12:40pm

Lo Kin-hei is a pro-democracy advocate in Hong Kong and vice-chairman of the opposition Democratic Party (DP). His fellow DP lawmakers Lam Cheuk-ting and Ted Hui Chi-fung, along with 14 others, were arrested on the morning of Wednesday, August 26, 2020, over a 2019 incident which saw masked assailants, widely suspected to be Chinese triad gangsters, storm a train station in the city’s north-eastern district of Yuen Long following nearby protests.

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Hong Kong police have publicly shared their version of the shocking event. Superintendent Chan Tin-chu refuted allegations from local activists, saying officers arrived at the scene of the attack within 18 minutes and added that livestreams uploaded by netizens and bystanders “did not show the full picture”. Chan also disputed criticism calling it “an indiscriminate attack”, saying it was the result of clashes between “two evenly-matched rival groups”. But Lo recalls everything that took place that life changing night. He spoke to VICE on the day of the arrests to share his account.

I still remember everything that happened in Yuen Long that fateful night. 

Ted Hui and I were in the Sheung Wan district to attend a rally and give our support to protesters who were angry at the government defending a controversial bill that would have allowed people they deemed as “criminals” to be extradited to mainland China to face trial. The protesters were exercising their rights as free citizens to make demands and hold the authorities accountable. Members of our political party are often on the scene at rallies to carry out our duties as legislators. We try to step in when we sense things are becoming too heated among protesters and do our best to de-escalate the situation. But very often, tempers flare and things can get so out of hand that it’s beyond our control. 

I witnessed local policemen turning on their own people. They fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowds who grew frightened, angry and frantic. Their actions shocked and disturbed me. I couldn’t believe what I

was seeing.

Something in me changed. The Hong Kong I knew would no longer be the same. 

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Ted and I left the protest area in the early hours of the morning and headed home. We were glued to our phones, checking social media constantly to keep up to date with unfolding events. It was on Facebook that we saw our colleague Cheuk-ting on a livestream that was being circulated widely. In one video filmed by a local protester, Cheuk-ting was seen speaking calmly to a crowd of civilians who had gathered at the Yuen Long MTR station after a crowd of thugs, dressed in white, showed up and became violent. Cheuk-ting was reassuring them, telling them that he had called the police and help was on the way. 

It was obvious that he was trying his best to mediate. Then we saw him in another livestream soon after, bloody and bruised after the attack. I was shocked and quickly got on the phone with contacts and local reporters who told me they witnessed Cheuk-ting being attacked. I was told the police just stood by and did nothing. I felt outraged and helpless but I was far away and everything was chaotic. There was little we could do. I was full of rage at the injustice of the situation. It was one of the angriest nights I ever experienced. I couldn’t sleep. 

I’ve had my share of life-changing events but what happened on the night of July 21, 2019 was so outrageous - yet it was only the beginning. The attack at Yuen Long station changed Hong Kong forever. One bad incident would lead to a series of terrible ones and the fate of our city today. 

Many of us Hong Kongers have lost faith in our police force following that episode and have sadly become conditioned to police brutality and excessive force that we’ve come to expect violence from them because we know that we can no longer rely on officers or our government to protect us. That in itself, is very heartbreaking. 

The Communist Party of China has had a lot of influence over the Hong Kong Police Force for a very long time. Their presence is everywhere. Our officers now serve the powers in Beijing and especially with the introduction of the national security act, and I feel we can no longer trust them. It seems that in their eyes, protesters are troublemakers. Since then, pro-China gangs have become more daring in their attacks to terrorize Hong Kong people and we feel like Carrie Lam and her government won’t do a thing to stop them. 

But even until today, I still can’t believe the inaction of the police during that attack. Hundreds of emergency calls from the public about the attack going on at Yuen Long station were made, yet from what I saw on the livestream, the police stood by and did nothing.

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Cheuk-ting is a good person who wouldn’t hesitate to help others in need because he wants the best for Hong Kongers. He is currently in police custody. Ted is gone too. I don’t think for a second Cheuk-ting would have regretted stepping in to protect our people from members of that white shirt gang. He is innocent. He was attacked and assaulted by hooligans and has now been made a scapegoat for what happened that night. 

It’s ridiculous and unfair that Cheuk-ting is now facing charges for rioting when he is clearly a victim. He shouted at the gangs and called the police himself. Does this sound like someone who would incite a riot? The police took so long to conclude investigations and instead arrested people like Ted and Cheuk-ting.  

I watched the official presser that they gave yesterday and was hardly surprised by anything they said. It was infuriating to see them defend what happened that night and attempt to rewrite history. They justified using excessive force against their own people and used the attack at Yuen Long to further their own rules and agenda. More importantly, it showed that the authorities will never be held accountable. 

As an opposition voice in this city, you are at greater risk of being targeted by Beijing. But for those of us who stay, we know the risks and danger we are in. That is the reality of the situation we are in now and it has only gotten worse as we see more groups of people being arrested. 

The first batch of political dissidents and opponents have been arrested and it makes me worry about our party. Will the DP get banned? Will we see more of our councillors and legislators like Cheuk-ting and Ted arrested and face unfair and overwhelming charges? It’s only a matter of time before the Communist Party in Beijing eliminates us all.