HK court jails 7 over 2019 train station attack

Defendant Ng Wai Nam, one of the men accused of attacking pro-democracy protesters in Yuen Long in 2019, outside the District Court in Hong Kong on June 18. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Defendant Ng Wai Nam, one of the men accused of attacking pro-democracy protesters in Yuen Long in 2019, outside the District Court in Hong Kong on June 18. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Seven Hong Kong government supporters who took part in a violent assault on democracy supporters and commuters were jailed yesterday over what the trial judge described as an "indiscriminate attack".

The sentencing came exactly two years after a gang of men dressed in white shirts and carrying sticks descended on people returning at night from a democracy rally in the town of Yuen Long.

The brazen assault - and the police's failure to respond quickly enough - was a turning point in 2019's huge and often violent pro-democracy protests, further hammering public trust in both the force and Hong Kong's government.

Only a handful of attackers were ever identified and charged by the police.

Yesterday, the seven men were given terms of between three years, nine months and seven years in jail following their conviction for rioting.

Judge Eddie Yip said the gang of attackers had "collectively lost their minds" and that the heavy sentences were required because their assault had caused "extreme terror for residents".

As the sentences were being read out, some supporters of the defendants shouted insults at Mr Yip, including calling him "dog judge". One man holding a Chinese flag repeatedly shouted "dog judge" as he walked outside the courtroom.

During the Yuen Long attack, more than 100 men pounced on protesters as well as reporters and ordinary commuters, sending some 50 people to hospital.

Much of the attack was broadcast online by journalists and victims. Police later confirmed some of those involved had links to organised crime gangs.

The ambush became a public relations disaster for Hong Kong's government, especially after police officers were photographed talking to men in white wielding sticks and letting them leave the scene.

An award-winning investigation by public broadcaster RTHK found that the police did not stop a build-up of men with sticks in Yuen Long in the hours before the attack.

A producer in that investigation, Bao Choy, was later convicted of making improper vehicle licence plate searches as part of an effort to trace the attackers.

Hong Kong police have consistently denied any wrongdoing and allegations of collusion. It says its officers were too busy handling violent democracy rallies across the city.

In recent months, police have sought to recast events of that night, with one senior officer calling it an "evenly matched" fight between two opposing sides.

They have charged some of those who were attacked with rioting, including prominent pro-democracy politician Lam Cheuk-ting who was beaten bloody.

Lam is expected to go on trial in 2023.

Late last month, Hong Kong's newly appointed police chief Raymond Siu said the response to the attack had fallen short of "some residents' expectations".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2021, with the headline 'HK court jails 7 over 2019 train station attack'. Subscribe