THE AWFUL STORY of what happened in the Hong Kong suburb of Yuen Long on July 21 last year has been told thousands of times.
“Evil gangsters attacked innocent passengers at the Yuen Long MTR train station, chasing them up the stairs and beating them on the train. Police, shockingly, walked away at the start of the attack and returned when it was over, revealing that they were cooperating with the gangsters.”
That’s the story we’ve all been told.
But let’s take a closer look.
Five days before that incident, on Tuesday July the 16th, radical protesters who like to dress in black travelled to Yuen Long with their rather hostile messages. They were not well received by some local people there, who asked them to leave.
Angry, the protesters said they would return with a larger group on Sunday July 21st to settle the matter. Here’s their poster. [PIC]
Now all sides knew this spelt trouble. Yuen Long has a strong triad society—and triads consider radical protesters to be troublemakers and lawbreakers. Yes, there is a dash of irony there!
The triads also used a poster to notify their members about the need for defence. Theirs featured coded messages about a traditional performance of martial arts and stick fighting. Get it?
The triads claimed the moral high ground, pointing out that they were just defending their home patch from a group known for violence and breaking the law—which was actually true. Albeit still ironic.
Meanwhile, the radical protesters had discovered that the media would give THEM the moral high ground however violent they were and however many laws they broke.
Now let me put my cards on the table here. I have been a peaceful protester in Hong Kong for 30 years, this was my first protest [PIC] – I am 100% in favor of human rights and freedom of speech—but totally opposed to violence.
By the time July 21 came around, the radical protesters were creating mayhem in more locations simultaneously than ever before. These included copious use of petrol bombs, an attack on the China Liaison Office, the brutal beating of a driver who complained about their roadblocks, and so on.
Back in Yuen Long, the triads in their white t-shirts had been waiting for their visitors from 6:46 onwards. They waited a long time.
It wasn’t until 10:40 that night that a significant group of about 100 radical protesters, some in black, some in ordinary clothing, arrived at Yuen Long MTR station.
There were about 30+ people from the faction dressed in white waiting to face them down at the station.
Both groups expressed hostility to a third group of people — the police, of whom there were three present at the time.
There were minor skirmishes between the two factions at first, but the confrontation settled into a shouting match, at which point the police were seen leaving—and were assumed to be running back to the police station. But they weren’t. In fact, they’d been told to go to their patrol car where they’d be joined by reinforcements. A second patrol car, containing three more uniformed officers was dispatched at this time, which was 10:45.
The craziness started to escalate on the concourse area. Three minutes later, at 10:48, more white-dressed people arrived, holding flags, sticks and umbrellas.
The three extra police officers arrived at 10:52.
Why such a small response from the police? Well, it’s important to remember that two factions screaming at each other is unpleasant, but it was relatively mild stuff compared to the murderous firebomb-fuelled insanity that was going on 30 kilometers away on Hong Kong Island.
Some members of the public called the police, but the protesters had called on all supporters to make repeated 999 calls to disable the emergency call system. [PICS]
The protesters also blocked the doors of the train on the platform, preventing the driver from continuing his journey. That was 10:55.
Yuen Long police chiefs seemed to have a premonition that the face-off was escalating quickly, so at 10:57, they ordered the deployment of a Quick Response Team and a group of Tier III officers. While these officers were being briefed and putting on their equipment at the police station, the anger between the two factions at the MTR station boiled over.
At 11:02, the faction dressed in white jumped over the ticket gates into the paid area where the faction dressed in black were standing.
People in black dropped heavy objects onto the heads of the people in white. By 11:05, the verbal confrontation had turned into a massive brawl.
The people in white quickly gained the upper hand, and the people in black retreated up the stairs. The triads followed at 11:06.
While this was happening, the larger group of police officers left the police station at 11:07.
The violence in and around the train took place between 11.08 and 11:13 and the police entered the railway station at 11:14 – just as that brief period of fighting came to an end.
But that wasn’t the end of the story, but just a single episode in a much longer story.
Radical protesters from Central headed to Yuen Long to continue the fighting. Battles between the two factions continuing for hours, at the station and at other locations.
Yuen Long police were kept very busy, and needed the help of riot police from Hong Kong Island. Things didn’t settle down until about 5 o’clock the next morning.
Given the facts, what are our findings?
What happened that evening was not a spontaneous attack by gangsters on train passengers, nor was it a story about police. In hindsight, other decisions could have been made—but that’s always true. What happened was that a planned, deliberate confrontation took place between two factions.
If you made a list of arrest-able offences committed that night, the black-dressed faction AND the white-dressed faction would both be on it, and both lists would be long.
Let me leave you with this thought.
We the media are not serving the Hong Kong people well. Most journalists are pushing an agenda, instead of doing their jobs.
Instead, we should be digging up facts, and presenting them to people—and letting the people make up their own minds about things.
Sources: Public video, security video, MTRC files, HK-Truth.com, Now TV, i-Cable TV, IPCC files, Standard, Sing Tao, and other related sources.
Nury Vittachi is a Hong Kong-based journalist and author, who gained fame through his witty comedy-news writing. He deviates from the conventional “journalistic” style and uses creativity to expand the meaning of journalism. His work does not just make you laugh, but reflect.