25th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) In the wake of a series of chilling assaults in the bustling heart of Mong Kok, the once unquestioned safety of Hong Kong’s streets has been severely compromised. The city, celebrated for its vibrant nightlife and safe public spaces, has been thrust into a narrative that reads more like a suspense thriller than the day-to-day life of its citizens.

From 20th January to 18th February of this year, Hong Kong’s law enforcement received alarming reports from nine young women, ranging in age from 16 to 32. Each recounted a harrowing encounter in which an unidentified warm liquid was poured onto their backs and buttocks while walking along Sai Yeung Choi Street South—a popular shopping area—and near the MTR Mong Kok station. These attacks, occurring in broad daylight and in some cases repeatedly targeting the same individual within the hour, have sent shockwaves of anxiety across the region.

The substance, described as light-coloured and odourless, became the subject of an urgent investigation, with the authorities collecting the victims’ clothing for forensic analysis to determine the nature of the liquid. The breakthrough came when law enforcement, after scouring through a wealth of CCTV footage and intelligence analysis, identified a suspect.

On February 23rd, at approximately 5.45pm, an operation was launched. The suspect, a local 56-year-old man surnamed Lee, was tracked down to Causeway Bay’s Great George Street He was observed pouring the mysterious liquid from a thermos into his palm and then quickly approaching a 17-year-old girl, splashing the substance onto her. The police intervened at once, arresting Lee on the spot for “outraging public decency”—a serious offence that could result in up to seven years of imprisonment upon conviction.

Lee, a construction worker by trade, initially claimed no emotional distress and, under caution, admitted to the act, stating he “couldn’t control himself”. Whether he is connected to the thirteen similar assaults remains under investigation, and he has been detained for further questioning.

The incidents have prompted a women’s violence prevention association to speak out on social media, noting a disturbing pattern of targeted attacks against women. The group highlighted that a page dedicated to “Splashing Unknown Liquid on Private Parts” had gathered over a hundred testimonies of similar experiences within just three weeks of its inception. This alarming trend, the association points out, is not merely a series of isolated incidents but a societal issue reflecting a pattern of predatory behaviour.

Sexual violence, the association stressed, encompasses any act that involves a sexual element and is committed without consent, including actions, words, and attitudes which can invoke fear, threat, or humiliation in the victim. They urged anyone who has experienced such incidents to come forward and seek support.

Law enforcement officials underscored the gravity of “outraging public decency”. They reassured the public of their commitment to maintaining social order and public morality, sternly warning against copycat offences. Citizens were advised to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour or harassment immediately.

Yet, the stark reality remains that such predatory acts are difficult to anticipate and prevent. The question plaguing the minds of many is how, under the bright light of day and among the throngs of Mong Kok’s crowded streets, could one ever foresee such an alarming violation? Such incidents strike fear into the hearts of women, who are now forced to look over their shoulders with trepidation.

In response to these concerns, one might argue that law enforcement should increase their presence in busy areas, not merely to enforce minor offences but to provide a visible deterrent to such heinous acts. The onus is on the authorities to reassure the public and particularly women, who now shop with fear, that Hong Kong can indeed reclaim its status as a safe city.