A representative of the central Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong called on residents of the New Territories to “protect” their towns from pro-democracy protesters at a banquet earlier this month, just over a week before white-shirted thugs injured scores of protesters in the area on Sunday night, Reuters reports.
Li Jiyi, the director of the liaison office’s district branch, criticized the protest movement that has rocked Hong Kong for weeks to a crowd of hundreds of New Territories locals, calling on them to chase off protesters, according to a recording obtained by Reuters.
“We won’t allow them to come to Yuen Long to cause trouble,” Li said, to applause. “Even though there are a group of protesters trained to throw bricks and iron bars, we still have a group of Yuen Long residents with the persistence and courage to maintain social peace and protect our home.”
The comments were made on July 11, 10 days before a white-clad mob — with links to triad groups — stormed the Yuen Long MTR station armed with bamboo rods and canes and began indiscriminately beating everyone in their path.
The attacks followed a major pro-democracy rally on Hong Kong Island, during which protesters vandalized the liaison office’s headquarters in Sai Wan.
The liaison office didn’t respond to Reuters’ request for comment regarding Li’s remarks, but the head of the Shap Pat Heung rural committee, which hosted the banquet, said he didn’t believe the comments were problematic.
“I don’t think it was a mobilization call,” Ching Chan-ming. “His main message is that he hopes Hong Kong can remain stable and prosperous.”
News of the remarks wasn’t the only belated revelation about Sunday’s violence today. HKFP reported today that police had formed a group earlier in the day specifically to deal with the threat of violence in Yuen Long after being tipped off by a local councillor, but did not send them to the station because they deemed it “low risk.”
It ultimately took police more than half an hour to respond to the chaos at the station, during which time more than 40 people were injured and the perpetrators managed to get away.
A pro-democracy protest in Yuen Long is planned for tomorrow, despite police yesterday declining to give permission for it to go ahead out of fears of clashes.
Police yesterday said that in spite of the ban, officers will be out in force in Yuen Long tomorrow to prevent any “attack on the locals,” according to RTHK.