A Kowloon Tong mall which was closed down early on Sunday afternoon following clashes during a police dispersal operation, became the centre of a media frenzy overnight amid fevered online rumours that someone may have died there.
Multiple media outlets – including RTHK – showed live-streams of a growing group of reporters following an ambulance crew around Festival Walk, as they searched the mall extensively for any injured person – only to come up empty.
The government said the ambulance crew were there in response to a call for assistance from a member of the public.
There had been a number of injuries during a brawl between plainclothes officers and anti-government protesters in the afternoon, which was followed by a full-on clearance operation by riot police.
They rushed harried shoppers down escalators, using pepper spray, and shooting pepper balls at people shouting abuse at them.
One man was seen lying in a pool of blood following an apparent altercation.
Rumours then started flying online – after journalists, and almost everyone else, was forced to leave the mall in the late afternoon – that someone may have died during the operation.
While there was no concrete evidence to support this theory, that didn’t stop the speculation from gaining traction on the internet.
Like the rumours of fatalities that grew following a police dispersal operation at the Prince Edward MTR Station on August 31 – where journalists were likewise ordered to leave – people online insisted that something must have gone badly wrong.
So, when an ambulance crew was entering Festival Walk late on Sunday night, the crowd of journalists following them, live-streaming their every move, started growing. Soon, some members of the public also showed up to take part in the search.
There were dried blood stains and used first aid equipment by a toilet on the L1 level of the mall, but no sign of anyone there. Another mark appearing to be a blood stain was also found at a car park.
A staff member then led the growing pack of ambulancemen and press up and down the labyrinthian corridors of the shopping centre, unlocking doors to all sorts of back-end rooms normally hidden from the eyes of the public.
Reporters avoided obstacles and ducked under pipes as they followed the crew, room after room, up to the roof, down back stairs, only to find nothing.
However, that is unlikely to quell the online speculation, with mistrust of police seemingly growing by the day.
Midnight search at Festival Walk amid online rumours
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