On July 21st, shortly after white-shirted thugs viciously attacked commuters and pro-democracy protesters at the Yuen Long MTR station, Pat Heung Division Police Commander Li Hon-man drew the public’s ire for answering a journalist’s question about authorities’ belated response by sarcastically saying he hadn’t looked at his watch.
The next day, Li’s name had disappeared from an online government directory and was replaced by a dash, though his post title, office phone number, and email address remained. Three other more junior commanders’ names and contact details went missing from the Pat Heung division directory after another update yesterday.
Similar changes appear to have since taken place across the directories of all police divisions in Hong Kong. For the Yuen Long Division alone, 11 lower-ranking commanders’ names and contact details were AWOL after yesterday’s update.
The Hong Kong Police Force, once hailed as “Asia’s finest,” has been the focus of intense criticism in recent weeks for its heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the city’s long-running protest movement. Ever since police fired some 150 rounds of tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of largely peaceful protesters on June 12, calls have mounted for an independent investigation into the authorities’ use of force.
Those calls have only intensified in the wake of the Yuen Long attacks, in which pro-Beijing thugs — some with triad links — stormed an MTR station and indiscriminately beat commuters, journalists, and pro-democracy protesters who were returning from a major rally on Hong Kong Island.
Police took more than half an hour to respond to the violence and, compounding anger even further, were seen in widely circulated photos and videos appearing to calmly converse with men believed to have been involved in the attacks.
While police declined to comment on the shrinking directories today, a representative of the force told told HK01 that they had decided to temporarily hide the details of mid-level commanders because some of them had recently been subject to phone harassment.
The information of divisions’ top commanders are still available in the public directory, however.
The police told HK01 that the redaction was intended to protect the privacy of certain officials and did not affect citizens’ ability to use the 999 emergency hotline or contact police stations for help.