Two white-shirt suspects charged with rioting

Top News | Phoenix Un 23 Aug 2019

Two men who allegedly attacked pro-democracy activists and others inside Yuen Long MTR station on July 21 have been charged with rioting.

The names of the pair, aged 48 and 54, were not revealed, but they will be known soon enough as they are to appear in Fan Ling Magistrates' Court today for mention.

Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung of the Police Public Relations Branch had no additional information to offer about the two yesterday, saying he had only learned they had been charged just before he faced the media.

The two were among 28 people arrested following concerted attacks by hundreds of men in white T-shirts brandishing and using wooden and rattan sticks inside the Yuen Long station on the night of July 21.

Their targets were black-outfitted protesters on their way home from anti-fugitive bill rallies and marches, though some ordinary travelers also suffered beatings. In all, 45 protesters and others were injured.

The action was followed by a public outpouring of rage because of the delayed arrival of police at the scene and over some officers being seen to be colluding with the mob, who included people with triad backgrounds.

Videos showed two policemen turning their backs on people calling for help in the MTR station and other citizens going to Tin Shui Wai Police Station to appeal for assistance only for officers to shut the gate.

The assistant district commander of Yuen Long, Yau Nai-keung, followed up early on July 22 by claiming that officers did not see anyone carrying offensive weapons.

Police did, however, arrest 28 men for unlawful assembly, and after more than a month of investigations the two men have been charged with rioting. People convicted on that charge could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

But Tse did reveal yesterday that the police had not initially charged the two with rioting, which has a higher threshold for a conviction compared with some other crimes.

"The decision to charge the two persons with rioting was made after close contact with the Department of Justice and having more understanding of the evidence," he said.

Tse also said the investigation and the job of collating evidence proved complicated, and the process of investigating the 26 others who were arrested was continuing.

And the fallout from the night has continued, with two men aged 27 and 36 remaining in custody yesterday after being arrested on Wednesday night after a rally at Yuen Long MTR station to mark the one-month anniversary of the mob attack turned violent.

Thousands of citizens had held a generally peaceful sit-in rally from 7 pm on Wednesday.

At 9 pm, however, some activists started moving water-filled plastic barriers and rubbish bins to barricade nearby roads, and by 10 pm some had started aiming laser beams at police.

Officers warned protesters they were taking part in an unlawful assembly and used pepper spray on the crowd.

Protesters then retreated to the MTR station and opened up at police with a fire extinguisher as they formed defense lines with rubbish bins.

Tse accused protesters of throwing bottles at police and hurling a rubbish bin from the second floor. No one was injured, but Tse said "it would have been lethal."

One officer fired a rubber bullet to stop protesters from throwing objects, but no one was hit or hurt before the crowd left the station by trains at around 11 pm.

An MTR spokesman said some facilities at the station had been damaged, with police recording cases of criminal damage.

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