Time to bring the acid attacker to justice

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 December, 2009, 12:00am

The acid attacker remains on the loose. Four outrages in a year in two of our busiest shopping areas have injured 107 people and, with the festive season moving into full gear, we would be naive to believe that there will be no more. Hong Kong's reputation as a safe city is threatened and the more it is eroded, the greater will be the personal and economic cost. It is time for whoever knows who is behind these vicious crimes to end the mindless game by contacting police.

Thousands of hours of detective work, HK$900,000 in rewards and a HK$1.7 million video surveillance system installed in Mong Kok have failed to reveal an identity or motive. More closed-circuit television systems have been ordered by district councillors after the attack in Causeway Bay last Saturday, and the idea is being considered for other shopping zones. The cameras are a deterrent, not a solution; we will still have to be vigilant. Better, obviously, would be for the perpetrator to be arrested and punished, to send a message to like-minded criminals that such behaviour is intolerable.

We should not blame police for the lack of progress. The bottles of acid used are easily transported and concealed. At busy times of day in crowds in the locations chosen for the attacks, it is difficult to judge from which direction they have been thrown. The corrosive liquids used are readily available from any number of suppliers.

One person, a group, or copycat offenders may be involved. The attacks could be a game of cat-and-mouse with police, a prank, a dare: there are any number of reasons behind them. Some criminologists suspect an agile young man over 21 years of age, although detectives remain open-minded. What is certain, though, is that only a person without regard for the lives and well-being of fellow citizens would carry out such senseless acts.

The chance that there is only a single person who knows about the attacks - the perpetrator - is slim. Someone who has outwitted authorities for so long would boast to friends or relatives. The possibility of more attacks is surely high. Those with knowledge have to do right by society and share what they are aware of with police.