The controversial case of a young woman, who became an iconic figure for the Hong Kong anti-government protest movement of 2019 when she claimed to have been shot in the eye with a police beanbag round, is back in the news again with the revelation that she has left the city for Taiwan.
After her repeated refusal two years ago to reveal her medical records to police who denied being responsible for her injury, pro-establishment media and politicians in Hong Kong have renewed their claims that she could have faked or exaggerated her case, prompting the Hospital Authority on Tuesday to reject accusations it had been involved in any such cover-up.
Known only as K, the woman was injured at a protest in Tsim Sha Tsui on August 11. A hospital source at the time said she had sustained damage to her nose and jaw, as well as her right eye.
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Protesters claimed she could have been blinded by the incident and used it as an example of alleged police brutality, shouting slogans calling for “an eye for an eye” during a protest at Hong Kong International Airport.
A source told the Post on Tuesday that the woman’s condition had improved a bit, but she was still not fully recovered. She was in Taiwan, the insider said, without elaborating.
In a comment piece published on Tuesday, Sing Tao Daily said if an earlier news report was true, the Hospital Authority had “surprisingly allowed the spread of lies” and had conspired with protesters, a claim the authority called “unfounded”.
The controversy erupted the day before, when the Oriental Daily News, quoting exclusive sources, said the woman had been spotted leaving for Taiwan on September 30 last year. The report, which carried photographs said to be of K at the city’s international airport, added that her eyes looked “bright” and she appeared “normal”.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Elizabeth Quat, referring to how the injury had deepened protesters’ anger towards the police force and sparked more demonstrations, said the woman’s case had caused far-reaching harm in Hong Kong and called on the government to set up a law to crack down on fake information.
Protesters were seen covering their eyes in different ways, including wearing a mock eye patch during an airport demonstration. Her injured face was later drawn in promotion posters and banners circulated on social media as well as in public.
In response to the comment piece, a Hospital Authority spokesman said it disagreed “with the commentary and reiterates that allegations the HA deliberately covered up and was fraudulent in the disclosure of the condition of an individual patient are unfounded”.
The statement added the authority had cooperated with the police investigation into the woman’s injury and provided relevant medical records to officers in accordance with the law.
In an attempt to discover what happened, police obtained two search warrants to access the woman’s medical records to investigate the causes of her injury, triggering a legal battle.
The woman finally lost an appeal in April this year to obtain copies of the warrants, which her lawyers said were needed before they could challenge the lawfulness of the police seizure. Police have not disclosed the findings of their investigation.
While the authority said it would not disclose “specific clinical details of individual patients to the public or the media without the patient’s consent”, a hospital source previously told the Post the woman was not blind, although she had sustained fractures to her nasal and maxilla, or upper fixed jaw, bones.
Someone claiming to be the woman’s younger sister posted online that K’s damaged right eye was swollen “as big as an egg” and there was a long cut from the inner corner of the right eye to just under the eye.
Raymond Yeung, a former secondary school teacher who suffered an injury above his right eye in the protests that severely affected his vision, said superficial wounds around the eyes could be treated, but long-term damage was harder to judge.
“Just judging from the appearance, it’s really hard to estimate the visibility of one’s eyes,” he said.
Huang Chun-sheng, head pastor of the Che-Lam Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, who has been offering accommodation and financial help to young protesters who fled to the self-ruled island, said he had no knowledge about the arrival of the woman or her whereabouts.
Additional reporting by Gary Cheung
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