Hong Kong police have confirmed that there were plainclothes officers at Sheung Shui MTR station carrying out an investigation on Tuesday. It came after viral videos showed a man dressed as a masked protester threatening residents outside the closed station.
The clips raised eyebrows with some questioning the objectives of the officer inside the station, and raising concerns over why he was masquerading as a protester. Sheung Shui station was closed at 8pm on Tuesday. But the videos, shot at around 11pm, showed a man in a hat and a scarf inside the station.
In one video, the man pointed a finger at people outside the station shooting videos and told them to leave. When asked why he was inside and why he hid his identity, the officer took out a flashlight and aimed it at the person shooting the video.
“Why does it look like a flashlight that police use? I am just here to have late night food. I am just passing by,” the person who shot the video said. In a second video, the officer took out what appeared to be pepper spray and pointed it at those outside the station. There were at least four other people inside the station.
Since June, Hong Kong has seen large-scale protests against a bill that would have enabled extraditions to China. In 18 weeks, they have evolved into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy and alleged police brutality.
MTR stations have become targets of protest since the MTR Corporation ran afoul of protesters.
The mostly government-owned transit firm has often closed stations pm protest days. On October 4, it closed the entire network citing vandalism and safety concerns. The police confirmed the Sheung Shui station incident at around 3pm on Wednesday. “We must clarify that upon receiving reports of vandalism by rioters, plainclothes officers were deployed to carry out [an] investigation in the station,” the force said in a Facebook post said. “All Police officers certainly will not break the law. The Police will continue to make use of different methods to combat crimes according to operational needs,” it added.
The MTR Corporation also confirmed to i-Cable news channel that plainclothes officers were sent to Sheung Shui station for investigation after it closed. The MTR Corporation said security guards were inside the station. Comments under the police Facebook post raised questions over the police action: “If you were conducting an investigation, why did he cover his face and take out pepper spray?” one user said.
“Were they conducting a mission to damage the station?” another said.
Following weeks of protests, the government invoked the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance to enact an anti-mask law, with a maximum penalty of a year in jail.