Hong Kong police on Wednesday accused the media of "one-sided" coverage of the Yuen Long mob attack, denied the July 21 incident was an indiscriminate attack, changed the time frame of their delayed response and said a photograph of officers seen with suspected attackers actually showed the policemen ordering them away.
In one of the most controversial incidents linked to the anti-government protests last year, a mob of dozens dressed in white and armed with rods and sticks entered the Yuen Long MTR station and attacked passengers, some of who were returning after taking part in a protest.
The attack was live streamed by media and there was major criticism of the police, who were slow to respond despite thousands of people calling the 999 hotline during that time.
But in a briefing for the media on the arrests of 13 men earlier in the day, senior superintendent Chan Tin-chu attempted to change the narrative about the attack, saying that the violence that left 45 people in hospital should not be characterised as an "indiscriminate attack" by the white-clad men.
Chan insisted the two live-video streams of the rampage did not show the whole picture of what he described as a clash between rival groups with people dressed in both black and white taking part in the fighting.
In the hours after the violent mob attack, police had issued a statement saying "assault cases" had taken place in Yuen Long. "Some people attacked commuters at the platforms of the Yuen Long MTR Station and train compartments, resulting in multiple injuries," the statement said.
The government had said on the night in question that "some people congregated at the platforms of the MTR station and train compartments, attacking commuters. It led to confrontations and injuries."
In a series of comments on Wednesday, some of which contradicted the police's own earlier version of the events, Chan also said the response time of the officers was actually 18 minutes and not 39 as officially stated earlier.
He said the discrepancy was because officers didn't have all the information at the time, but failed to mention that three policemen had actually arrived before the reinforcements did, and left without intervening.
The senior superintendent also denied allegations of police colluding with triads, and gave a new take on a widely circulated picture that showed two policemen together with a couple of white-shirted men.
He said this picture was taken out of context and the officers were actually "pushing" them away.
In heated exchanges, Chan countered questions on why the police didn't take the details of those people, some of whom were carrying weapons. He questioned why the reporters were not asking if people arrested during anti-government protests on Hong Kong Island were carrying weapons.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who had arrived at the station and was attacked by the mob, was among the 13 men arrested on Wednesday in connection with the rampage, on top of 44 people held earlier.
Chan said although Lam was live-streaming the events, it didn't mean he wouldn't be held liable. The officer said both sides were throwing objects and attacking at each other.
He said, in fact, many passengers left the station amid a stand-off between two group of people, which then escalated to clashes.
The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), which conducted a study into the police handling of the protests, had concluded that while police had been slow to react to the Yuen Long attack, there was no collusion between the force and triad gangs.
In December, a panel of five overseas policing experts quit the "fact-finding study", saying the IPCC needed more powers if it was to conduct a meaningful probe.
The Carrie Lam administration has ruled out an independent investigation into the incidents, which had become one of the main demands of the anti-government protest movement.
Police now claim Yuen Long attack not indiscriminate
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