'I can't forgive him,' says Hong Kong police officer injured in knife attack

A handout photo. On July 1, 2021, a man stabbed a police constable in the back outside the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Barely able to breathe and bleeding profusely on an ambulance stretcher, Hong Kong police constable Wai Ming* thought he was going to die.

He was near the end of his shift, patrolling a busy street outside the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay last July 1, when a man came up to him and stabbed him in the back.

As Wai Ming, 29, underwent seven hours of emergency surgery, his family was told to prepare for the worst.

He survived, only learning two days later that his assailant, 50-year-old Vitasoy purchasing agent Leung Kin Fai, had committed suicide by immediately stabbing himself in the chest.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping Keung declared the incident a “lone wolf-style act of domestic terrorism” and said those who incited hatred in society and beautified acts of violence had blood on their hands.

Lying in his hospital bed, Wai Ming struggled to understand what had pushed his attacker towards such an extreme action, asking himself if Leung had been misled by biased news reports and social media.

Revisiting his ordeal in an exclusive interview with the Post, the Police Tactical Unit officer said he could not find any answers, but realised the one thing he found unacceptable.

“I will not forgive a man who thought he could evade responsibility by committing suicide,” he said. “This conveys a very wrong message to society, that one can conclude matters by ending one’s own life after doing bad things.

“Violence cannot solve a problem. Violence is never a solution. These are my words to him.”

‘Don’t fall asleep’

Wai Ming shows the scar on his arm and back where he was stabbed by Leung Kin Fai, on the day of the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. 
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

On the day of the attack, Hong Kong was marking the 24th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.

Beijing had just imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong and, for the first time since the 1997 handover, there were no mass protests as the police locked down demonstrators’ usual gathering points, banned activists from setting up street booths and maintained a heavy presence across the city.

Reporting for duty at 10.30am that day, Wai Ming was tasked with patrolling the area around the Sogo department store with two other officers and keeping a lookout for any suspicious characters.

The day appeared to be an uneventful one. Near the end of their shift, at about 9.30pm, Wai Ming told his partners: “The weather is so hot today, let’s grab a beer after work and chill.”

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The next thing he knew, someone was pressing against his shoulder, hitting him hard in the back. He swung around to see a man pulling out a knife from his body, and in those split seconds, he tried to grasp what was happening.

He recalled thinking: “Is it a drill? Is it even real? There is a knife. Yes, I think I really have been stabbed.”

He pulled away from his attacker, shouting: “Knife! Knife! Help me!”

Then Wai Ming was lying on the ground bleeding, and his colleagues were rushing to him. He realised he was in deep trouble when he felt his uniform start to grow heavy with blood. He struggled to breathe and his sergeant, usually an easy-going person, looked dead serious.

Before the ambulance took him away, Wai Ming saw that police chief Raymond Siu Chak Yee was there too, while his sergeant told him: “Siu sir is here. Don’t fall asleep. This is an order from the police commissioner.”

‘I wouldn’t wish this on anyone’

A police photo of the knife used in the incident.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Leung was pronounced dead at hospital that night. The police national security unit later found several suicide notes in which he expressed his hatred of police, opposition to the national security law and the intention to kill an officer that day.

Meanwhile, Wai Ming suffered a deep 10cm wound that left him in critical condition and fighting for his life. Almost the entire length of the assailant’s blade had pierced the left side of his back.

He needed a blood transfusion during emergency surgery that lasted seven hours. As his condition deteriorated, doctors told his wife and parents that he might not make it.

Looking back, Wai Ming said: “It was like in the movies. A normal working day could have turned out to be my last.”

As he fought for his life, a storm was brewing over the incident, with social media users praising Leung’s action, calling him a martyr and urging people to gather and pay tribute to the dead man. Some placed flowers outside Sogo in his memory.

Over the following days, fully armed police in protective vests took to guarding the scene of the attack.

Lying in his hospital bed, Wai Ming was pained not only by the scenes on TV of people gathering outside Sogo, but also by messages from some of his secondary schoolmates telling him that he deserved to die.

“It is a matter of life and death. How could anyone support an assailant? Some even took their children along. What’s wrong with their judgment?” he asked. “Regardless of our political views, I would never wish the same ordeal on anyone. No animosity should be so extreme that you wish someone dead.”

He spent 19 days in hospital and was on medical leave for another 200 days. The attack left him with a 14cm scar from below the left shoulder to his upper arm. He avoided wearing sleeveless tops during the summer, afraid the “long and horrible” wound would scare others.

“At first I felt uncomfortable looking at it. I minded how it affected my appearance and it also reminded me of the attack. It took me four months to get over it,” he recalled.

Wai Ming said he watched the video clip of the attack more than 20 times, trying to see his assailant’s face, the man’s actions before the stabbing and his own reaction.

The first time he returned to Causeway Bay, two months after the attack, everything that happened that night flooded back into his mind.

“It is a bad memory, but I have to face it and deal with it,” he said.

Wai-ming has been undergoing regular physiotherapy and endurance training, and has even returned to his favourite exercise, weightlifting.

Ready to return to work on Tuesday, he said: “I am no hero. I am just a police officer carrying out my duty. It was purely bad luck that the attack happened to me. It could have been anyone.”

SINGAPORE HELPLINES

  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
  • Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.