An emergency services hotline in northern Hong Kong was jammed by 24,000 calls in three hours on Sunday night, a senior police officer revealed on Tuesday after the force came under fire for its slow response to the violent attacks at a subway station. The Post has learned that there were only 10 operators to handle the calls made between 10.30pm and 1.30am – which came in at an average rate of two per second, meaning they would each have had to deal with a call every five seconds to take them all. The centre usually handles an average of 2,500 calls a day. Superintendent Lau Siu-pong said in a video posted on the force’s Facebook page on Tuesday that many calls were not answered as a lot of people tried report the attacks inside Yuen Long MTR station from about 10.45pm, especially after online appeals for people to call the line, some – police said – intending to jam it. “This is totally impossible. And that explains the jamming of the line,” a police insider said. “People online also advocated that people call 999 to jam the line. So it was not us who did not want to pick up calls. As a matter of fact, we couldn’t.” Police were also criticised for taking 35 minutes to send officers to the station, where about 100 armed, white-clad men attacked extradition bill protesters and other passengers. The attackers had fled by the time officers arrived at 11.20pm, leaving 45 people injured. About 40 minutes later, a confrontation between more than 400 people from both sides broke out in a nearby village. As all officers in the Yuen Long police district were busy dealing with fights and assaults in different areas, a squad of more than 500 officers who were dispersing anti-government protesters in Sheung Wan at the time was redeployed to Yuen Long to handle the chaos, another police source said. By the time the squad arrived, most of the men in white shirts had left. The team, which came on duty at 9am on Sunday, stayed at the village’s entrance until 5am on Monday and retreated to the police headquarters at 7am, ending a 22-hour shift. Could deepening Hong Kong divisions lead to anarchy? Law enforcement sources said these snapshots of events on Sunday reflected the manpower constraints on the force while it has handled a series of extradition bill protests since early June, especially when protests turned violent. Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung pledged on Monday to review the deployments and response times. One of the sources said that while the force had 31,000 officers, management had mainly used the 3,000 riot police to handle the protests, which included marches that organisers estimated drew up to 2 million people. One officer said on condition of anonymity: “We were exhausted as we worked nearly 24 hours and had to wear full riot gear for more than 12 hours.” The officer said he felt helpless as it was unclear when the protests would end. The police insiders also slammed internet users and local media for publishing unverified videos and rumours that fuelled accusations of police collusion with triads in the Sunday attacks. One of the videos, published on Monday night, showed Pat Heung divisional commander Li Hon-man chatting with a group of men mostly dressed in white. One of them asked Li if the police had taken away the protesters. “We are in deep trouble if they [attack] us again! Otherwise we will scare them off!” he said, referring to the protesters who gathered in a Yuen Long park to watch recordings of police’s enforcement actions during the recent protests. In the same video, another man in the group showed pity for police officers injured during the bloody clashes at Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza on July 14. And Li replied: “Heartfelt, really. But your help would just make us even busier.” The police insider said the video clip did not mention that the conversation in Yuen Long took place not on Sunday, but on July 16. “Li did not even say anything wrong in the video. The uploader wanted to mix the two events together and let people believe we have connections with triads. They want to smear us apparently,” he said.