The Hong Kong government said it would make the maximum effort to provide correct information to the public and clarify rumors sweeping society, including speculation that several people had been killed in a police operation in Prince Edward MTR station on August 31.
A lot of fake news had been posted on the internet and people tended to believe it when it went viral, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Tuesday. The public should remain calm and rational when they see things on the internet and should not be affected by rumors, she added.
The government will take the initiative to clarify incorrect information being circulated, she said.
Hong Kong’s leader made the comments on Tuesday morning before the Executive Council’s weekly meeting, while criticizing “rioters” for damaging facilities in dozens of MTR stations over the past few weeks. She said the government and police had deployed a lot of resources to successfully avoid a suspension of airport services on September 7.
She said the government condemned the violent behavior of radical protesters who vandalized MTR stations. She admitted it was difficult to protect all 90 MTR stations in the city as “rioters” were moved across the city.
Lam said it was wrong to say that it was legitimate to vandalize MTR stations.
On Monday morning, Lam inspected the Central MTR station, which was vandalized by people wearing masks on Sunday evening. Wu Chi-Tai, a Democratic Party lawmaker, called Lam a hypocrite as she only cared about dead objects such as MTR facilities, instead of the injured young protesters.
Protesters have been attacking MTR stations over the past few weeks as they said the MTR Corp helped police suppress anti-extradition protests. They mocked the MTR in graffiti as “the (Chinese Communist) Party’s train.”
On August 11, riot police fired tear gas canisters inside Kwai Chung station, raising concerns that the MTR Corp had failed to protect the passengers.
On August 18, protesters held a legal rally in Victoria Park, but the MTR Corp shut down nearby stations, resulting in a serious traffic jam on Hong Kong. On August 24, the MTR Corp shut down the stations on half of the Kwun Tong line before a legal protest scheduled in east Kowloon.
On August 31, dozens of riot police rushed onto the platform at Prince Edward station and arrested 53 people, including some passersby. Police sealed off the station for two days while rumors circulated that some people were killed during the August 31 operation.
On Tuesday, representatives of the Police Force, Fire Department, Hospital Authority and MTR Corp held a joint press conference, trying to dismiss the rumors. Yu Hoi-kwan, senior superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch, said no one died in the Prince Edward operation. She said police had not received any death or missing person reports related to the incident.
Lo Shun-tong, senior assistant chief ambulance officer of the Fire Department, said firefighters entered the Prince Edward station at 11:30pm and initially identified about 10 injured people. Lo said the number of injured people was later renewed to seven as previous counts could have 0verlaped.
The MTR Corp refused to release the closed-circuit television footage taken in Prince Edward station on August 31 and September 1, citing privacy reasons. It only disclosed some screenshots of the footage.
People online were not convinced by the joint press conference. Citing video footage taken by SocREC, a non-government organization, they said some firemen were seen in the station at 11:10pm, while at least three people could have been killed between 11:10pm and 11:30pm. They demanded more information and CCTV footage be released.