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Police chief denies rewriting history

2020-08-27 HKT 18:34
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  • Police chief denies rewriting history
The commissioner of police, Chris Tang, on Thursday rejected claims that the force is trying to re-write history with its new description of the Yuen Long violence as a fight between two evenly-matched sides.

At a media briefing, Tang was repeatedly asked about comments made by a senior officer the day before that the July 21 incident last year at Yuen Long MTR station should not be characterised as an indiscriminate attack on rail passengers by a mob of white-shirted men armed with sticks and other weapons.

"I think we, as the police, we do not have any intent to write or re-write any history," he said. "History will judge itself."

"As police officers, we should focus on evidence and facts. We should not comment too much on other issues."

Tang also sought to play down a row over police response time.

A senior police superintendent, Chan Tin-chu, sparked controversy when he said in a combative press briefing on Wednesday that it took officers only 18 minutes to arrive at the station.

Tang said on Thursday that he agreed it took 39 minutes after a report was received for the first officers to attend to the scene, and said the timeframe falls short of expectation.

He said the force will study how to make improvements.

In the briefing on Wednesday, Chan also sought to "clarify" what they described as "biased, twisted, misleading and false information" that was circulating in the community about the attacks that left 45 people in hospital.

He said the depiction of the violence as an indiscriminate attack was wrong, and the true picture was that two opposing groups had clashed before police intervened to keep the peace.

The version of events presented by the police elicited disbelief and fierce criticism, especially from pan-democratic lawmakers, who accused the force of trying to whitewash history. They also called the arrests of the attack's 'victims' an affront to the people's conscience and common sense.

The chairman of the Yuen Long district council, Zachary Wong, has also dismissed the police narrative of the events, and has vowed to follow up.

Wong said he believed the white-shirted mob brought sticks to intentionally beat up people in Yuen Long, and bystanders could only defend themselves with umbrellas or whatever they could find in the train station, such as water hoses.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists Association accused the police of attempting to "strangle" press freedom, after senior superintendent Chan repeatedly questioned journalists' professionalism and impartiality during Wednesday's media briefing.

The association also noted police had admitted displaying images from two media outlets during the briefing without seeking prior approval.

The police said they were in a hurry, but the association said this was not the first time it had happened, and urged the force to keep its promise to seek permission before using any footage or images.