'Stretched' police response defendedTop News | Jane Cheung 23 Jul 2019
Hong Kong's top cop blamed the 35-minute delay in police response to an armed gang rampaging at the MTR Yuen Long Station on over-extended manpower handling fugitive bill protests.
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said yesterday two patrol officers arrived at the scene seven minutes after receiving reports of attacks on passengers from 10.45pm on Sunday.
The pair requested reinforcement after seeing more than 100 people, including some with weapons, at the station, saying they were outnumbered and not properly equipped.
At that time, Lo said police were handling three fights and a fire in Yuen Long.
"We had also deployed manpower from other districts to Hong Kong Island to handle protests," he said.
"Because of that, reinforcement officers arrived at 11.20pm."
Lo condemned "all sorts of violent actions," saying they would not be tolerated, and the law would not go easy on the culprits.
But some people said officers only arrived at the station after the attackers had left and questioned whether this was intentional.
Lo said in response to critics: "We will catch the attackers as soon as possible."
On videos showing the Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai police stations shutting their gates on Sunday night, Lo said the closures were done for safety reasons. "Citizens could have also reported to police by dialing 999 or through other means," he said.
However, people complained the 999 hotline was not working and, even if someone picked up, they merely said "go home if you're scared."
Lo said the hotline received hundreds of calls and people had to wait in the queue.
Anti-riot police teams were deployed to a Yuen Long village where the attackers retreated.
Officers seized several metal rods from the village and marked down personal information of some men in white, said Yau Nai-keung, assistant district commander for Yuen Long.
He believes the Yuen Long assault was caused by people holding different political opinions.
"We couldn't make sure that men in the village participated in the fight in the Yuen Long station," he said. "Wearing white shirts didn't mean they took part in it. We can't arrest them just because of that."
Meanwhile, about 100 people, including lawmakers, district councillors and others, protested at Yuen Long police station yesterday afternoon, demanding an explanation for the 35-minute delay.
They chanted slogans: "Police-gangster cooperation. This is the end of Hong Kong."
Yuen Long district councillor Zachary Wong Wai-yin said he received calls from people asking whether Yuen Long was safe.
"Some even asked if they could wear black to Yuen Long. I didn't know how to answer these questions," he said.