3 Years On: ‘What Does the Future Hold?’ How an Exile Survives Police Brutality and Trauma After 831 Prince Edward Attack

By Summer Lawson
Summer Lawson
Summer Lawson
August 30, 2022 Updated: September 2, 2022

For Hongkongers 2019 was a memorable year as they fought for freedom and democracy. They rallied against the Hong Kong government and the anti-extradition bill. Millions of people took to the streets and attended rallies, and protests to stand for their beliefs. The former chief executive Carrie Lam was deafened but she ignored her people’s needs. Lam’s ignorance to the public’s demands, not only caused the yearlong protests, but also scarred and separated many families. Protesters and activists have been jailed, some had to flee the city.

One of the most horrific events was the Prince Edward MTR Station Attack by Hong Kong Police on Aug. 31, 2019, known locally as 831.

Dozens of riot police charged inside the Prince Edward MTR Station around 11:00 p.m. that night. The fully geared riot police told everyone to leave the station by the exit before putting the station on lockdown. They continued running to the train platform and assaulted unarmed civilians and journalists.

As all the exits were completely blocked, no one could escape from the indiscriminate beating, brutality, and hostility. Screams and cries could be heard throughout the station. On one end of the platform, police sardined over 60 people onto a narrow escalator. The cornered citizens were on their way home but were violently subdued and arrested. In the middle of the platform, citizens were trying to protect the young and the weak with their bare hands.

Riot police attacked citizens uncontrollably and indiscriminately with batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets.

Many were injured. But no first aid responders or medics were allowed in.

A few citizens were cornered in one of the train compartments. They sat on the floor, defenseless, as riot police hosed them with pepper spray. A man was seen kneeling on the floor, protecting two women while crying in pain and pleading with the police to stop.

The Hong Kong riot police carried on.

Epoch Times Photo
The man was begging for the riot police not to shoot them with pepper spray anymore, as they had done nothing. Aug. 31, 2019. (Screenshot of HK Situation Report)

Outside the station, medics and first aid responders were requesting to go into the station to help the wounded. Police refused their requests.

No one knows exactly what happened that night inside the station, except the citizens who were trapped inside. Some passengers were said to be missing or killed that night.

To date, Hongkongers believe that riot police had killed some people in the station, as they refused journalists entry on Aug. 31.

Aftermath

After the attack, passengers have been prosecuted for rioting, and assaulting police. Some were sent to jail, especially after the implementation of the national security law. Meanwhile, police officers who dehumanized Hongkongers during the protests were promoted.

To this day, the 831 Prince Edward Attack is still a mystery to Hongkongers. On all the months with 31 days, people show up at Prince Edward MTR Station with their offerings and flowers. They hope the dead, if there were any, will be at peace.

Epoch Times Photo
Outside an exit of the Prince Edward MTR Station, citizens covered the exit with flowers for the people who they believed had died that night. (Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Image)
Epoch Times Photo
People light candles and burn incense outside Prince Edward MTR station in Hong Kong, on Sept. 7, 2019, a week after the 831 Attack. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Some young arrestees chose to leave Hong Kong before they could be wrongfully jailed by the unjust legal system.

The Departure

Jim Wong Mau-chun is one of the 831 survivors.

Having to carry eight counts of charges including rioting on his shoulders, Jim decided to leave Hong Kong and take refuge in the UK.

Jim began his long journey as an exile in the UK.

This year, 2022 marks the third anniversary of the 831 Incident, The Epoch Times invited Jim to share his journey over the past three years. Benedict Rogers, a co-founder of Hong Kong Watch, also gave his views on the 3rd 831 commemoration event, its importance and why people should keep fighting for Hong Kong.

Benedict Rogers
Campaigner Benedict Rogers speaks at a rally for democracy in Hong Kong at Trafalgar Square in London, England, on June 12, 2021. (Laurel Chor/Getty Images)

Life as Exile

When asked how life has been for him in the past three years, Jim calmly said, “his life has been OK.”

Jim said his physical and mental health is still on the mend since Aug. 31, 2019. “Right after the night in 2019, my life changed completely. That night turned my life upside down. I was prosecuted with eight charges and was most likely going to jail. I didn’t do anything wrong. That’s why I left Hong Kong and became an exile.”

Jim left Hong Kong and sought asylum in the United Kingdom and his former family knew little about it. “My environment became foreign.”

Similar to other Hong Kong democracy activists such as Nathan Law, Jim had to cut ties with his family and loved ones publicly to ensure their safety. This has been commonly seen since the National Security Law came into effect.

Being an exile is never easy, Jim described how cautious he had to be to make sure he stayed under the radar. It was too dangerous to be discovered. Jim had to be an invisible man for the first two years.

Being Under Surveillance

When Jim first left Hong Kong in July 2020. That was the time when more and more people complained about being under surveillance by Hong Kong or the national security police. Ted Hui and Tam Ho-man, both former Legislative counselors, also were targeted. “There were often people waiting downstairs where I used to live. My family members were harassed and threatened by those suspicious people.” While Jim could not say exactly where those people were from, he knew they looked intimidating men, who could be police or triad members. They showed up at his previous address and started asking for him and his whereabouts.

Jim frowned, “It makes me worried.”

CCP’s Tactic

Rogers also had a similar experience with the CCP people. It has been for as long as he advocates for Hong Kong freedom. The regime doesn’t appreciate his criticism of the national security law (NSL). “Hong Kong Watch and have personally been threatened by the NSL. I can understand how much more serious it is for Hongkongers.”

Jim made the decision of leaving his family behind for their safety. However, that does not mean he forgets about the people and the city he used to know.

Jim exhaled, “As a whole, many Hongkongers are still locked up, waiting to be prosecuted. I sometimes wonder if they can ever get away as I did.

“What I worry about the most is the safety of my friends and anything that relates to me.”

Asked if he was concerned for the people who were helping him when Jim first arrived in the UK, he nodded, “Of course I was. I would also often think about if someone found me and wanted to do harm to me. ”

Constantly having to live in fear day after day, eventually took a toll on Jim’s health.

Mental Fragility

Many Hong Kong exiles or protesters had experienced being watched or surveilled. Exiles like Jim suffer from underlying, often invisible distress, that can be detrimental.

Being under high pressure every waking moment, Jim was sensitive to his surroundings. He would look behind and around to make sure no one followed him. The inevitable paranoia and insecurity caused emotional issues.

“I was very moody. I had trust issues. Can I trust this person? I often asked. This is not just about being stalked, but also the effects on my mental health.” Jim added that he had to learn to view the incident from a distance with a different perspective. “I used to feel guilty about leaving Hong Kong.” Jim sighed.

Infiltration

CCP’s Infiltration is getting more serious around the world. In the UK pro-CCP people interfere with Hongkongers’ events or attack Hongkongers. Jim also said the CCP spends a lot of money on fake news and online information war.

Rogers is also familiar with the regime’s tactics, “We must not forget. We must continue to remember. One of the things the regime is very keen on doing is erasing history, like the memories of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It will do its best to wipe out or distort the truth of 831.”

Managing Trauma

For survivors like Jim, 831 is a trauma that you can’t forget. The flashbacks and fragments of memories would replay from time to time.

That’s why, for a long period, Jim was struggling to live in the present moment.

But later he found a way to tackle the roadblocks and allow himself to live a little less stressfully. He realized he was in a completely new, unknown environment. “I started volunteering. I tried to make friends. I forced myself to be in social circles or meetings. Those activities help bring me back to the present moment and allow me to feel more grounded.”

Having battled the physical, emotional, and traumatic wounds, Jim found ways to bring a sense of joy and be kinder to himself after two tough years. His strategy of self-help worked favorably.

Epoch Times Photo
Jim volunteers at various communities and charity events. This was for collecting household and clothing items for a Ukraine Donation event. (Courtesy of Jim Wong)
Epoch Times Photo
Jim volunteers at various communities and charity events. This was for collecting household and clothing items for a Ukraine Donation event. (Courtesy of Jim Wong)

The Next Move

The next hurdle was to learn to reposition himself and continue as a protester or freedom fighter. He felt that was his responsibility or the right thing to do.

The Hong Kong Watch CEO sympathized, “The biggest challenge of exiles here is the trauma of leaving Hong Kong; a place they were born and grew up. 2019 was trauma to Hongkongers.”

Rogers explained that it could be daunting for Hongkongers to start a life, and build a new life and home again. He said it would be difficult with an unfamiliar language in a country they probably have never been to before.

Rogers also believed it would be very important for exiles to figure out their role in continuing the movement overseas.

Since Jim landed in the UK, he has been a strong advocate for the 831 Prince Edward Attack. He spends a lot of time telling the public about Hong Kong Police’s brutality,

Jim stated, “I wanted a space to tell people what happened on the night of Aug. 31, 2019, inside the Prince Edward MTR station as a survivor. That is my full intention.”

Epoch Times Photo
Jim with the last governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten at his book signing (Courtesy of Jim Wong)

While Jim has to face some people’s questions about his authenticity, the majority are supportive.

A New Identity

In 2021, Jim and his good friend Winston Marshall founded Hong Kong Link Up. HKLP is a community group to help welcome Hong Kong newcomers to acclimatize in the UK. “When I first arrived, I had no one. Sometimes I wish I had a friend and to be less lonely.” He wants HKLP to be the place Hongkongers can find comfort in a foreign country. After a few tough turns, Jim has become one of the most proactive UK Hongkongers who continues to advocate for Hongkongers and their freedom.

Epoch Times Photo
Jim and Winston co-founded Hong Kong Link Up to help Hong Kong newcomers adjust to their new life in the UK. They hope to bring the communities of the UK and HK closer through events, new friends, and support groups. (Courtesy of Jim Wong)

When asked what his plan will be, Jim is thankful, “Compared to three years ago, even though the anxiety is still there, I am in a good place now. I have learned to look at things from different perspectives. I used to think a lot about what happened. But now I will try my best to look forward to the future. ”

Jim now organizes a yearly event to commemorate the 831 Prince Edward Attack in the UK. He gathers groups of Hongkongers to bring Hong Kong history to the British people.” Meanwhile, Rogers said in general, British people understand what has happened to Hong Kong. They might not know the details but they know Hong Kong needs help.”

Both Jim and Rogers believe that organizing more events, and spreading the word about Hong Kong’s needs are the most important tasks for those overseas.

The Future

Jim was excited that he could be the one to continue the mission with many supporters. On Aug. 31, Hong Kong Link Up and Hong Kong Watch will be holding an 831 commemoration event in the UK. They hope to continue with their message to Hongkongers in and outside of Hong Kong.

Jim is no longer an exile. He is now a recovering survivor who advocates for Hong Kong.

Jim said his journey in the UK has been a learning curve. He believes that he has become more patient and mature. He also looks forward with hope, “No one knows what the future holds. I can only be the best version of myself every day.” Jim hopes the world sees Hongkongers as people full of potential and talent. He wants the world to know Hongkongers are not in their home to just take. They also want to give back and bring the communities closer.”

When asked what he hopes to achieve for Hong Kong, Rogers said, “We should not give up on seeking justice, accountability to end impunity. We should continue to fight for Hong Kong. Hong Kong Watch and I will be doing just that.”

Epoch Times Photo
The 3rd commemoration of 831 will take place in London on Aug. 31, 2022, at 6:00 p.m., at Parliament Square. (Courtesy of Jim Wong)