Hong Kong’s embattled railway operator has condemned “rioters” for arson attacks on a light rail vehicle carrying passengers and on a train depot in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
Revealing details on anti-government protest violence which had spilled over from the previous night, during which the MTR Corporation’s facilities were once again targeted by radicals, the operator said five people had entered a light rail vehicle and set fire to it at 2am on Wednesday.
The incident occurred on a Tuen Mun Pier-bound train at Light Rail Depot station, where the suspects entered the first carriage as it stopped to let off and pick up commuters.
“Passengers on board quickly got off the train and no one was injured. The train captain immediately reported the incident to the operations control centre and used fire extinguishers to put out the fire. The train was then sent for inspection,” an MTR spokesman said.
Separately, at about the same time, staff at a depot in Tuen Mun observed on surveillance footage some people hurling petrol bombs from outside into its compound. A double-decker bus at the depot, which is for both light rail trains and buses, was hit and caught fire.
“The staff members immediately went to put out the fire and no one was injured,” the spokesman said.
The incidents happened after muted celebrations gave way to defiant anti-government protests late into Tuesday night, while the city, still rocked by the months-long civil unrest, rang in the new year. Police fired tear gas and deployed at least one water cannon to disperse crowds.
While no fierce clashes were reported, the shopping district of Mong Kok was the main flashpoint as radical protesters blocked roads, started fires, let off fireworks and disrupted traffic, prompting police action.
Earlier in Tuen Mun, light rail services were also affected after a petrol bomb was reportedly thrown at around 9.30pm on Tuesday. There were no injuries in the case.
The spokesman said: “The company strongly condemns the rioters’ acts, which have seriously endangered the safety of passengers and staff. We’ve reported the incidents to police.”
The rail operator has come under vandalism by radical protesters since August after it was accused of bowing to pressure from Beijing and colluding with police over closures of stations near protests.
When the government announced a ban on masks on October 5, rampaging mobs attacked MTR stations, causing extensive damage and the entire rail network to shut down for the first time in its 40-year history.
Through most of October and November, the MTR Corp closed stations early for repairs, although critics accused it of imposing a “de facto curfew” on society.
As of November 24, radicals had caused extensive damage to 85 out of 94 MTR stations, and 62 of 68 light rail stops. Turnstiles, ticketing machines, surveillance cameras, lifts, escalators and rolling shutters were damaged. Some 54 heavy railway trains and 16 light rail vehicles were also hit.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong rings in new year as muted celebrations give way to defiant anti-government protests
- Hong Kong protests have left the MTR Corporation beaten, bruised and bleeding – and it was supposed to be celebrating its 40th anniversary