A Democratic Party lawmaker, who was beaten up by white-clad gangsters in Yuen Long MTR station in July last year, has been arrested by Hong Kong police and accused of involvement in a riot at the station on that day.
Lam Cheuk-ting was picked up at his home at about 6am on Wednesday. He was among 16 people arrested in the morning for involvement in protests on July 6 and 21 last year. Ted Hui, another Democratic Party legislator, was also arrested for taking part in an illegal assembly in Tuen Mun Park on July 6, 2019.
Lam said he had previously received a letter from police, who thanked him for reporting the serious crime in Yuen Long station on July 21. He said he could not believe he was then arrested as a suspect and that such a ridiculous thing was happening in Hong Kong.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said: “The prosecution is ‘calling a deer a horse’ and twisting right and wrong.” Hui and Lam were in Tuen Mun Park to mediate disputes as councilors, as widely reported by local media, said Wu.
“The government is wielding the legal system and the police force to suppress dissenting voices within society and create a chilling effect instead of trying to reconcile confrontation and polarisation,” he said.
The Civic Party also condemned the arrests, saying they were part of a push by authorities to crack down on the pro-democracy movement. In a joint statement, 20 pro-democracy lawmakers accused law enforcers of insulting and intimidating people’s representatives.
Ryan Lau Chun-Kong, a journalist and environmentalist, said in a post on social media on Wednesday that the police did not have enough evidence to arrest and charge Lam, who was obviously a victim of the Yuen Long attack rather than a rioter.
Lau, who was also attacked by white-clad men in Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019, wrote in a book titled Dark Night in Yuen Long that about 500 gangsters had gathered in Yuen Long from 8pm, while Lam called a sergeant surnamed Tang for help at 10:22pm when he was in Mei Foo MTR station.
Lau said Lam arrived at the Yuen Long station at 10:44pm but he, together with more than 100 passengers, were attacked by the gangsters at 11:02pm.
Lau said the police should explain why Lam was accused of rioting when he was the one who called police and was then attacked by the white-clad men, believed to be members of a triad gang.
On August 20, police said they arrested six more people, aged between 32 and 53, on suspicion of rioting and conspiracy to wound in connection with the mob attack at Yuen Long station. It brought the total number of arrests to 43, though only seven have been charged.
Senior superintendent Chan Tin-chu declined to say whether the six were suspected of being among those who terrorized passengers at the railway station, or whether they were among the protesters wearing black that the gang was hunting.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho, who was seen shaking hands with white-clad men in Yuen Long shortly before the attack, had denied involvement in the incident.
Ho had not been summoned or arrested by the police. In previous media interviews, Ho accused Lam of leading the black-clad protesters to cause trouble in Yuen Long. Several pro-Beijing newspapers and groups echoed the view.
On Wednesday, Ho said he welcomed the arrests of the two Democratic Party lawmakers. He said justice was late but better than never.
He dismissed suggestions by the pan-democrats that the arrests were politically motivated, and said it was time to “remove the dead meat,” in reference to the pan-democrat camp. Ho accused opposition lawmakers of misleading the public.
On August 10, Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai was arrested under a new national security law. More than 200 police raided his newspaper offices in a high-profile operation.
Agnes Chow, a social activist, and eight others were also arrested separately on the same day. After Lai and Chow were released on August 12, police had not taken major action against the democrats until Lam and Hui were arrested on Wednesday.
The latest arrests came after the United States and Chinese officials finished a teleconference to review the progress of the Sino-US trade deal signed on January 15.
Lam was also charged with conspiring to damage property and obstruction of justice outside Tuen Mun police station on July 6 last year. Hui said he was told by police that he would be charged with attempted obstruction of justice, access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent and criminal damage.