Prosecutors have acknowledged that an attack at a rail station in northern Hong Kong during 2019’s anti-government protests was initiated by a white-clad mob, but they have no evidence that six men on trial were the organisers.
The admission was made after District Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man demanded prosecutors clarify who sparked the assault on commuters and protesters,many of whom were dressed in black, on July 21 that year.
“The white-shirted,” replied senior assistant director of public prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang.
Chau said the men in white had arrived at Yuen Long MTR station armed with rattan canes and wooden sticks, while some in black retaliated by spraying a fire hosepipe and extinguisher found on the premises.
“Footage shows that whenever the black-shirted tried to exit the gate [leaving the paid area], those in white would chase after them,” he added.
The clashes involved both verbal disputes and physical altercations, with the men in white hitting people with sticks and hurling objects such as rubbish bin covers, traffic cones and umbrellas, the prosecutor said. Both parties also tugged at each other and threw punches, he maintained.
Yip continued to grill prosecutors handling the trial of the six men, who have denied all charges relating to rioting and wounding in relation to three incidents in and around the railway station between 10.40pm and 12.39am the next day.
Merchant Tang Wai-sum, 62, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of rioting, while his co-defendants each denied one count of the same charge. They are transport worker Wong Chi-wing, 55; cable worker Wong Ying-kit, 49; driver Ng Wai-nam, 58; village representative Tang Ying-bun, 61; and electrician Choi Lap-ki, 40.
All except Ng were also charged with one count of wounding with intent, which they denied. Ng and merchant Tang denied a charge of conspiracy to wound.
Prosecutors opened their case by citing a screening event held by demonstrators angry over a now-withdrawn extradition bill in Yuen Long on July 16, as a lead-up to the MTR station violence.
The District Court heard the event on Fung Yau Street North drew counterprotesters, and verbal disputes ensued before the crowds dispersed upon the arrival of police.
There were subsequent online calls to assemble in the northern town on July 21 to protest against the disruption of the screening, as well as to “safeguard Yuen Long” and “drive out protesters”.
A police officer was expected to testify about the screening event, but the judge on Wednesday questioned the need to include the events on July 16, and whether the defendants had any role to play in the screening or subsequent planning leading up to July 21.
“I can’t see the causal link,” Yip said.
The prosecutor said: “We have no information in this regard.”
Yip said the court had no time for irrelevant details, given its packed schedule of more than 100 protest-related cases listed for the next four years, with more to follow.
Chau eventually agreed to remove the mention of the July 16 events from his case and said the officer would not be called.
The first witness will testify behind a screen on Thursday.
If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.