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London terrorist attack

London residents recount their experiences of Westminster Bridge terror attack

One mainland student initially thought it was a film shoot; a civil servant working nearby said she first found out about the attack through her parents in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 8:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 2:10pm

As Britain’s MI5 intelligence service probes the terrorist attack in London on Wednesday that ended in four deaths and more than 40 injuries, some ethnic Chinese people who live or study in London recounted the dramatic terrorist attack to the Post.

As of Thursday, police had arrested eight people at six locations in London and Birmingham as part of the probe into Wednesday’s lone-wolf attack that British Prime Minister Theresa May said was inspired by a warped Islamist ideology.

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The attacker was British-born and was once a subject of an MI5 investigation related to violent extremism. He sped across Westminster Bridge in a car, ploughing into pedestrians along the way, crashed the vehicle into railings, then ran through the gates of the nearby parliament building and fatally stabbed an unarmed policeman before being shot dead.

No Hong Kong people were hurt in the incident. The casualties included 12 Britons, four South Koreans, three French children, two Romanians, two Greeks, one German, one Pole, one Chinese and one American, May said.

Chen Kangling, a Chinese student from Chongqing, said he arrived in the area shortly after the officer was stabbed.

“I thought it was a film shoot,” Chen told the Post, as he saw people lying on the ground with some under double-decker buses. But the crowds did not seem to panic, he added.

It was not until dozens of police cars arrived that the 22-year-old realised the dramatic scene was real.

“I once thought terrorist attacks were far away from me. RIP.” Chen said.

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Felix Chan Yin-lam, 31, who has worked in London as an administrator for 10 years, said: “It is just such a tragedy for those who have been killed, but then threats are part of life as the London mayor said. If you live in London, such a metropolitan city, you have to face and be prepared for threats.”

“While it does make me think twice, living here is still OK.”

Rebecca Choi, a civil servant with the British government, works near where the attack took place. On Wednesday, her building was locked down for two hours.

Describing how events unfolded, the 27-year-old said: “It was just a normal day. The first thing I knew was in fact through my parents back in Hong Kong. Around 3pm we got a security announcementthat there had been a serious incident, so our building was in full lockdown. No one could get in or out. We didn’t know what exactly happened until 3.30pm.”

“It was a terrible event that happened in London. It was always going to be a matter of when [an attack would take place].

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“The best strategy is to carry on as normal because there is no reason to be worried about another lone-wolf attack. We probably should care about the things that do harm us that we can do something about like air pollution which kills more Londoners prematurely than a terror attack.

“On my commute to work this morning, Parliament Square was blocked but all around people are going to work as normal. I was walking past No 10 Downing Street and it’s very calm, police are very friendly as usual. It’s just another day in London. There isn’t a sense of nervousness.”

In Hong Kong, a book of condolence was opened at the British consulate in Admiralty to allow people to offer their thoughts. The British flag was lowered to half mast.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected by the terror attack on London. The UK will stand strong with all its friends and allies across the world in the face of this barbaric attack,” UK Consul General Andrew Heyn wrote on the first page.

Danny Chan, a 30-year-old Hongkonger, placed a bouquet of white flowers outside the consulate.

“I have many friends there. I feel deeply sorry for those affected,” the UK passport holder said.

Travellers from Hong Kong seemed to be little affected by the attack, as the Immigration Department said it had not received any request for assistance from Hongkongers.

Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, said local tour groups seldom visited the area of the attack and he had not received any report from affected travel agencies.

Hong Thai Travel and EGL Tours said their European tours would set off from Hong Kong next week as scheduled.