Riot police moved in on Tuesday to disperse protests marking theÂ anniversary of a brutal mob attack on passengers at a train station inÂ Hong Kong’s Yuen Long district, arresting a district councilor forÂ violating a draconian security law after he held up a banner with theÂ words “Free Hong Kong! Revolution now!” blazoned on it.
Dozens of protesters wearing black gathered at Yuen Long’s Yoho MallÂ on Tuesday to mark the attack on passers-by, commuters and protestersÂ by a group of triad-linked men in white, wielding canes and poles, onÂ July 21, 2019.
A long delay in the police response responded to multiple emergencyÂ calls on the night, and photos of officers chatting with groups of menÂ wielding weapons in white T-shirts, prompted widespread public angerÂ at police, and brought many more people out onto the streets in theÂ weeks and months that followed.
Riot police rushed into the mall on Tuesday, kettling the protestersÂ behind a cordon, and conducting ID checks.
Shops and businesses closed their shutters as police warned the crowdÂ they were participating in an “illegal assembly,” to the sound ofÂ insults, calls for independence and “Free Hong Kong, revolution now!”Â a slogan that the government says breaches the national security law.
Police took away Kwai Tsing district councilor Rayman Chow after heÂ held up a placard with the slogan on it.
The pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper on Tuesday cited leakedÂ internal police documents as showing that police had been instructedÂ not to respond to 999 calls in Yuen Long on that day.
At least 45 people were injured in the attack.
One of the victims, who gave only a surname Tseng, said he and his wife were assaulted by men in white T-shirts as they traveled home by the West Rail Line.
Report on police disappoints
He hit out at a government-backed report that found nothing wrong with the police response.
“When are the people responsible going to be punished?” he said. “This is something they should be taking very seriously.”
“Otherwise this will never end.”
Lam Cheuk-ting, a Democratic Party member of the Legislative Council (LegCo) who was among those attacked on the day, held a press conference with fellow victims.
One victims, surnamed Lam, said she was injured after falling as she fled the scene in a panic and had to have a knee replacement.
“How did things come to this in Hong Kong? I don’t know, and I can’t accept it,” she said. “I used to be able to teach dancercize at my neighborhood gym, but now I can’t do anything.”
A victim surnamed So said he sustained severe back injuries after being beaten up with a cane, and hit out at police for only convicting seven people in connection with the attack.
“They have claimed all along that they were working on it, and that arrests would be made in due course … but that was totally unconvincing,” So said.
“None of the people who beat me up have been arrested,” he said.
Few charges laid
Shortly after he spoke, riot police surrounded Lam Cheuk-ting and the Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan and shoved them against a wall, shouting that they were in violation of a ban on public gatherings of more than four people.
Lam told reporters later that there had been no more than four people giving the press conference, and said police were likely trying to silence the victims of the Yuen Long attack.
Of the 37 people who were arrested after the attack, only seven have been charged, with “rioting” and “conspiracy to injure others with intent.”
A Yuen Long resident filmed assaulting a Stand News reporter on the day of the attack wasn’t among them.
A police spokesperson said: “We understand public concerns about the Yuen Long attack, which the New Territories North Regional Crime Squad has been persistent in investigating.”
“As some cases have gone to court, it is not appropriate to reveal too many details at this stage … Further arrests will be made when the time is right,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, teachers in Hong Kong have reported widespread retaliation from the authorities if they express dissenting views, under the new security law.
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said teachers had been reprimanded, warned, and had contracts terminated “on suspicion of illegal use of or using inappropriate teaching materials.”
Hong Kongâ€™s Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung has also warned that teachers who violate the law — including through comments made on social media — could have their teaching qualification revoked, it said.
Reported by Man Hoi-tsan for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.