Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Darkness in the Tree

Part One

Detective Sergeant Leung was not a happy man. He had fought long and hard to be transferred to the Criminal Investigate Division, the CID, and he had just received the info that he was to head up a three man team to investigate missing persons in the Tai Po area. Missing persons were the responsibility of the relevant station, not the CID. He went for the meeting scheduled with his boss, a Chief Inspector who had, so far, spent most of his tenure as head of E-Section behind his desk issuing orders. Leung knocked on the door and received an immediate ‘enter’. He opened the door to wafts of cigarette smoke and found Detective Chief Inspector Wong sitting beneath the ‘No Smoking in Government Offices’ sign puffing away on a Marlborough.

“Leung, take a seat”. Leung took a breath of relatively unpolluted air before entering the office and closed the door behind him.

“You are probably wondering why CID is investigating missing persons, eh?”

Before Leung could answer Wong carried on. He had little time for the opinions of his subordinates anyway.

“As of yesterday three persons, two females and one male, have gone missing in Tai Po within the week”.

“People go missing in Tai Po every day of the week,” offered Leung. He was met with a withering glare that silenced him. He would not speak again unless spoken to.

“The link between the three is that they were all know to have enjoyed walking in the park area that runs along the Lam Tsuen River. And then, today, another link came up. A boy handed in a wallet, the type that joggers strap around their arms to carry their IDs and cell phones. It belonged to one of the missing persons”. Leung was quick to note that Wong had not used the word, ‘victims’. “When we realised the link we asked Tai Po to send the boy here so that you could interview him”. He handed Leung a file containing whatever information they had on the victims, missing persons, Leung corrected himself.

“The boy will be here at ten. I told the desk to send him to you”. He was interrupted by his desk phone. He answered it and spoke briefly before turning back to Leung. “That’s him. He’s waiting at the front desk. Go and talk to him”.

Leung met the boy, a secondary school student of around 17 at the front desk and took him to an interview room. The desk had also given him the wallet wrapped in a plastic evidence bag.

He offered the boy, Andy Lo, a soft drink, and asked him how he had come to find the wallet. The boy related quickly and simply that he had been walking through the park and found the wallet. He had immediately taken it to the Tai Po Police Station. Although he didn’t say so Leung knew that it was a good excuse to miss lessons.

“Where exactly did you find it?” Asked Leung, producing a road map of the area that showed in brief detail the path that ran through the park. Andy Lo studied it for a moment and pointed to a spot about half way through the park.

“Are you willing to come with us and show us exactly where you found it?” Asked Leung.

“If the owner doesn’t claim it within three months I get to keep it, don’t I?” Asked the boy. Obviously a fine upstanding citizen thought Leung. There was an Octopus Card and a hundred dollars in the wallet. There was no sign of a cell phone and Andy Lo wasn’t volunteering any information on this issue. By law, any unclaimed item would be returned to the finder after 90 days.

Leung assured him that it would be returned to him and left the room to organise a car and round up the other members of the team. Within ten minutes they were on the way to Tai Po.


The CID car dropped them off at the upmarket housing complex that lay next to the entrance to the park and Leung, two of his team and the boy, Andy Lo, walked across the footbridge into the green oasis that the park offered to the residents of the area. Leung asked Andy to show them exactly where he had found the wallet. Within a few moments they had reached the spot and Andy looked at the bushes on the right hand side of the foot path. He paused for a moment and then pointed to a spot between two bushes.

“There,” he said, “It was right there”.

“And when exactly was this?” Asked Leung.

“Yesterday, around 8:45, I guess”. The boy answered. Leung made sure that one of the team, a Detective Constable by the name of Wong was recording it all on his small camcorder.

“All right, Andy, you wait over there please. Let’s take a look around, see if we can find anything. The sweepers will have been through here at least twice since the wallet was found so look hard”.

A few walkers went past and Leung identified himself as a police officer and asked them to keep to the other side of the foot path. If there was anything to find he didn’t want it disturbed. The detectives crouched down and carefully examined an area two metres before and after the spot where the wallet had been found and it was after a few moments that Wong called him over.

“Take a look, Boss”. He pointed to a leaf on a small tree just about a metre from the edge of the foot path. Leung peered at it. Thank the gods it had not rained overnight, and the sweepers only worked on the foot path. Leung took out his mobile phone and called for a forensics team. He sent one of his men back to the car for the evidence kit and cordon tape. The walkers and joggers were not going to be happy. The area was now a crime scene and no one was going to go through it until after the forensics team had finished their examination. Andy Lo would have to wait for a long time to claim the wallet.

The leaf and those surrounding it was covered in dried blood pieces of what appeared to be flesh.


Leung waited until the forensics team had arrived and left Wong in charge. He and other DC returned to CID in Police Headquarters to await the report and put together everything they had on the case so far, the three victims, he felt he could now officially classify them as such, and see if there were any similarities. He also had to interview the persons making the missing person reports to see if anything could be gleaned from them such as the approximate time they had gone missing and if anyone knew for sure that they had gone to the park that day.

Calls were made and two of the three people concerned agreed to come in. The third was wheelchair bound and Leung arranged for a DC and a WPC to go and take a statement from her.

There was not a great deal he could do now until wait until the reports and information started coming in. And then he got the news about a fourth possible victim who had gone missing over a month ago, supposedly in the same area.

Leung called in one of his men and instructed him to compile a list of disappearances in the same area. At the same time he asked the officer to find out when the Tai Po Park had been officially opened. The results were not comforting.

According to official records and past police reports the park was officially opened 20 years ago and since then there had been 27 reports of missing persons, 17 of them had been connected one way or another with the park. At the same time word came down from DCI Wong that they were to carry out a bait operation. That entailed sending in a female police officer dressed as a jogger that would hopefully flush out the killer, or killers. She would, of course, be well protected and Leung asked to be placed in charge of the operation.

The next day the preparations began. Ten metres away from the scene there was a water control point. It was a small concrete structure just over a metre high on which they could mount an infrared camera. Technicians from the Technical Services Division arrived in plain clothes so as not to raise to much suspicion and worked quickly and efficiently to install it The control post would be set up at the park office 30 metres in the opposite direction. It was further away than he would have liked but there was no other suitable location and no way to conceal four to five officers and the monitors required for surveillance. There, Leung and his team would monitor the cameras and be ready to move instantly should anything untoward happen.

The Woman Police Officer chosen as the bait was Angie Yung, affectionately known to her colleagues as ‘Angelina’ after the famous actress because of her way of tying her hair in a pony tail. And also because of her rather prominent breasts which were the envy of her lady colleagues and a subject of locker room conversation among her male colleagues. While officially posted to PHQ she had applied for transfer to the CID and the Detective Training Course. The paper work was still going through but she had been interviewed and the transfer was only awaiting the completion of the paperwork.

Late in the afternoon of the day chosen for the operation Angie was wired with a transmitter. Due to the habit of joggers and walkers to carry iPods or similar the microphone and earphones would not raise any suspicion. Leung did the sound check himself. He had been on sting operations before and had been the bait himself, so he knew how it felt to be up the sharp end. Then it was only a matter of waiting for night fall and hoping for a quick result.


It was 7:45 and full dark. The street lamps were on but there were still areas of shadow that could conceal a potential assailant. Anyone entering the park was photographed and numbers were taken to ensure that anyone entering also left. However, they were other ways in which to enter the area. Leung and Angie went over the plan one more time and for the seventh time he checked the reception of her transmitter. Then it was time to go. The plan was for Angie to jog up to the end of the path and then walk back slowly, as if she had injured an ankle. It was twenty minutes later that the officers in the control room received word from Angie that she had reached the end of the path and was starting back. The plan was for her to pause at the point where the victim’s wallet had been found and make it look as if she was checking her ankle.

The walk back up to that point was a test of her nerves. Angie was a brave woman and had shown her mettle in several instances, but tonight every shadow was a potential hiding point and walking slowly was more frightening than the jog in the opposite direction. To make matters worse the street lamps started flickering. She whispered this to Leung who cursed under his breath. There was no way he could do anything about having them checked at that moment in time. Then she was there. She stopped and as per the plan started flexing her ankle. A noise in the bushes startled her and she made a prearranged signal to let the officers know that she had heard something. Leung and the others were ready to go but had their eyes glued to the infrared monitor. Apart from Angie there was nothing to be seen.

She stood up and looked about her, listening intently for any noise. Apart from distant traffic noises there was nothing. Then something touched her shoulder and she spun round and went into a fighting pose. It was a branch, dangling down from the tree above her, strange that she hadn’t noticed it before. There was nothing else. She was physically exhausted now from the tension and ready to call if all off. She stood up and looked in the direction of the control room and suddenly something reached under her right arm, snaked across her body and around her back. She gasped as she was hauled bodily into the air, whatever had grabbed her crushed her breasts painfully against her chest. She sensed that she was several feet off the ground and pulled at the branch crushing her. Vines wrapped themselves around her face and across her mouth which she opened involuntarily, gasping for air. Then she was face to face with something. Her consciousness was fading rapidly but she knew it was evil. It was like a storm cloud, dark and malevolent, and she knew it was laughing.

Leung and his team watched in numb shock as Angie was lifted off her feet by something unseen and ran out of the control centre, weapons drawn. They raced to the spot where Angie had disappeared and used high-powered flashlights to peer up into the tree above them. There was nothing. No sign of Angie.

Leung called out, hoping for an answer when Angie’s body landed amongst them, and around them. She had been severed in half and in the instant that Leung saw her he realised that there was massive tissue loss in her upper torso.


Leung sat in his desk in E-Section, PHQ, staring into middle space. He had been sitting like that for hours judging by the lightening sky. He glanced at the wall clock and saw that it was just after 6:00 a.m.

On their return to PHQ the team had made statements. Angie’s remains had been delivered to the morgue and the duty coroner had been called. DCI Wong had made an appearance and made conciliatory noises before leaving as early as was politely possible. Leung had gone to his desk and sat there, going over and over in his mind what had happened. Reliving the moment when Angie’s mutilated body had fallen to the ground

He was still sitting there when DCI Wong returned at 9:15. For once Wong was not his usual sarcastic self. He asked about the other members of the team. DC Wong, Leung told him, was in shock and had been sedated at Queen Mary Hospital. The others had appointments with the Force psychologist, as had Leung himself. But he had other plans for the day as well.

The press had gotten hold of it, despite a blackout issued by PHQ but the results were better than expected as it created a fear psychosis which kept even the news ghouls and sightseers away from the crime scene.

Being a member of the Criminal Investigation Division and a Detective Sergeant, Leung was entitled to draw any weapon, within reason, he wanted. He handed in his trusty .38 revolver, which fortunately, he had never had to use in anger and asked for a nine millimetre Glock. He would have preferred something more powerful but the .45 caliber 1911s that the force had in stock were somewhat antiquated.

Despite being asked to take official leave he returned to the park. The area had been cordoned off and police officers posted at various points along the foot path. They travelled in pairs and never let the other out of sight. They acknowledged Leung but did not speak unless spoken to. They saw the sadness and fatigue in his face. He walked the entire length of the footpath and stopped at the tree on both legs of his walk.

It was after 7:00 p.m. before he climbed back into his car and drove home.


He was woken by the ringing of his mobile at 6:45. It was DCI Wong asking him to get into PHQ as quickly as possible. Had there been a break in the case, he asked for details, but Wong had already hung up. Leung showered and dressed and arrived at Wong’s office just before nine. For once Wong was not smoking. He was in the company of two men, neither of whom Leung knew. Wong introduced them as Edwin Chan, from the office of the Secretary for Security and Professor Law from the Botanical Gardens. Sec for Sec, as the Secretary for Security was known, had taken over control of the case. It was too high profile and had been blown out of proportion by the press. Reports of a murderous, wild animal running rampant in the Tai Po area had been reported in the international press. Whoever, or whatever was responsible had to be found and stopped immediately.

Leung looked at Professor Law and Chan anticipated his question.

“Professor Law is here to advise us. You will take us both to the crime scene and let him examine the tree where WPC Yung was killed”. Leung doubted the purpose of the visit but kept his mouth shut. He arranged for a CID vehicle and the three of them set off for Tai Po.

Unbeknownst to Leung, Law had requested a mobile crane to be brought in. It was the type that electricians used to fix overhead lighting on the roads. He was to use it so that he could examine the upper branches of the tree. The officers on duty, still traveling and working in twos let them through the barriers and escorted them to the tree.

Professor Law climbed unsteadily into the mobile crane with his notebook and camera. Leung saw no reason to accompany him and stayed on the ground. Edwin Chan made a point of studying the bushes around the tree and avoided eye contact with Leung. After fifteen minutes Law climbed down out of the crane, as unsteadily as he had ascended and looked extremely happy to be back on the ground.

“Can you tell us anything of value,” asked Chan.

“Well,” said Law, “It’s a Tectona Grandis of the family Verbenaceae.” He smiled at Chan and Leung as if he had just solved the case. Leung did not think it wise to point out that there was a small plaque on the lower part of the tree that identified it as such.

“Can you tell us anything else? Asked Chan.

“Well, this particular type of tree has never been known to harm anyone, unless of course it fell over them.” He smiled at his own humour and if he was disappointed at the lack of response from Chan and Leung he hid it well. Leung had seen no point in the visit and this had just proved his point. What he didn’t see was the thing that was watching them from above.

In the next tree, on one of the upper branches crouched the Darkness. It was not at its strongest in the daylight, but was still incredibly powerful. To the human eye it resembled a static cloud of smoke or mist, varying from grey to dark grey. It had been in existence for a thousand years, created by a fool of a necromancer that thought he could control it. The necromancer soon found out to his dismay that no one could control something made of evil and elementals that could not be destroyed by any human device.

The Darkness looked down at Leung, recognising in him a potentially worthy foe, one that might give him some moments of amusement. Then it sent out a whispered command to an egret that was crouched in a nearby tree and the bird’s eyes gleamed. With a hoarse caw it rose up into the air and flew towards the sea.

The Darkness watched as Leung, Chan and Law left to return to PHQ.


Over the next five evenings, despite being ordered to stand down Leung carried out solo bait operations, offering himself to the killer. The Darkness watched him in amusement and was tempted to strike but decided that he was enjoying the game too much to end it so soon. It did however ensure that Leung was entertained with falling branches and flickering street lamps.


Leung attended the funeral of WPC Angie Yung. It was attended by the unit and of course, the Commissioner of Police, who took the time to speak with Angie’s parents and family. He assured them that he killer would be found and brought to justice.

After the funeral, Leung did not attend the customary dinner but instead returned home, changed into casual clothes and made his way to Tai Po. He decided not to use his car in case the killer had been monitoring his movements. The quickest way to get killed in this job was to underestimate your opponent.

He travelled to Tai Wo Station on the train and from there it was a ten minute walk to the beginning of the park. He showed his police ID to the officers at the barrier and walked into the park.

Nothing seemed to have changed except for the egrets, huge great migratory birds that frequented the Lam Tsuen River. It didn’t occur to him that it was unusual to see them in such numbers so far away from the water. Then he was at the tree. The crane had been removed days ago and there was nothing to indicate that it was anything other that what Chuen had said it was, a Tectona Grandis of the family Verbenaceae he read from the plaque. You didn’t need a university degree or to be a professor to be able to read a plaque.

There was a swoosh as something passed his over just feet away and he felt the flow of air. In shock Leung looked about himself and saw an egret climbing upwards. He watched as it settled in a tree near the building they had used as a control centre on the night of the bait operation. Leung eased his hand off the butt of the Glock that he had reached for unknowingly. The something touched his shoulder and he spun about in the opposite direction. This time he did draw the weapon and realised that he had not chambered a round. He racked the slide, arming the gun, but his training made him keep his finger out of the trigger guard. A branch was dangling in front of him, swaying in the wind.

The Darkness looked down at Leung, if it had a mouth it would have smiled.

Leung grasped the end of the branch and gave it a tentative tug, not really knowing what to expect. And unbeknownst to him the egret he had seen earlier flapped into the air to gain height and then started a dive, behind it another started off from a nearby tree. The Darkness had become bored of the game. Leung was busy peering up into the tree and didn’t see the egret until it was too late. All he saw was a flash of white as the bird struck him full in the chest crushing his sternum and sending bone shards into his heart. Leung fell onto his back, numbed by the force of the impact, without realising it his finger had tightened on the trigger and he fired off two rounds which alerted the officers at either end of the park. As Leung lay on his back, fighting the pain in his wounded heart the egret, its neck broken by the impact, fluttered in its death throws on his chest, the second egret landed just above it and tore out Leung’s throat in one quick movement. It had flapped away, its bill covered in gore long before the officers arrived to find Leung’s mutilated body.


The Darkness watched Leung die from its point near the top of the tree, it felt the rush of energy flow into it as it did every time it caused the death of a living being. It had seen many men die over the centuries and would be sure to see many more. It sent whispered blessings to the egrets that had done its bidding and decided that it had had enough of Tai Po Park for now. There were other pickings to be had elsewhere, and other Leungs to torment.

Part Two

Edwin Chan, from the office of the Secretary for Security was not a happy man. He had fought long and hard to be transferred to the Department of the Secretary for Security and and he had just been told that he would be responsible for clearing up the business in Tai Po and to make sure that the fallout from the press coverage was kept to a minimum. Murders in Tai Po, and for that matter, police officers that fall out of trees and get killed by low flying birds were absolutely not the responsibility of Sec for Sec! He glared at his desk phones, one of which was a direct line to Sec for Sec and reached into his jacket pocket for another Tylenol. He knew that extended use of these pills would sooner or later, probably sooner, melt down what remained of his liver, but in order to get through the day he had to deal with the blinding headaches that had become a daily event ever since this business started. He popped the pill, swallowed it dry and leaned back in his chair, hoping for a few moments of peace to allow the medication to take affect.

He looked through the list of calls received that his secretary, Amy had handed him. Three were from a man named Huang, Huang Li Man to be precise. Obviously a Singaporean by the spelling of the name. Why they couldn’t just use the pin yin spelling that Hong Kongers used was beyond him.

Not more than five seconds had gone by when one of the phones shrilled.

Chan grabbed for it, at least it wasn’t the direct link to Sec for Sec, but the news was just as bad.

“Ah Sir,” said Amy. “Ms. Lau called, the boss wants you to see you now”.

Ms. Lau was Sec for Sec’s Personal Assistant and therefore the next best thing to the Goddess of Hell. Her every command was to be obeyed implicitly and immediately!

Chan groaned something into the phone and stood up. He was not looking forward to the next fifteen minutes.

He knew it was going to fifteen minutes and not more because Sec for Sec divided his day into 15 minute intervals. Some for him to be brought up to date on what was happening in Hong Kong, some for global events and some to be enjoyed by berating his subordinates; a pastime he thoroughly enjoyed.

Alphonse Lo, (silly bloody name, thought Chan) was one of the few department heads that still held a western first name. Ever since the handover it had become fashionable for department heads to do away with Christian first names and adopt the more traditional Chinese names. Lo was a career civil servant. During the British administration he had sworn absolute loyalty to the Crown and then at the time of the handover, sworn the same absolute loyalty to Beijing.

Ms. Lau kept him waiting for the mandatory three minutes before allowing him into the hallowed halls that contained Alphonse Lo’s office. You could house three Kowloon City families in here, thought Chan, as he entered the door, which he did every time he entered the door.

Alphonse Lo always pretended to be busy, it was his way of ensuring respect from his underlings. He motioned to a chair in front of his desk, spent another two minutes pretending to pour over some papers and then looked up at Chan.

“So, Chan. what news on this business in Tai Po?”

Actually, there was nothing new but Chan wasn’t going to admit that to his boss.

“Sir”, he began. “I’m working closely with the police to ensure that the culprit, or culprits are brought to justice within the shortest possible time. As of this morning I am still awaiting a call from DCI Wong”.

“I’m one step ahead of you Chan,” Smirked Lo. “There’s been an arrest”!

Lo enjoyed Chan’s look of consternation for a moment before explaining.

“They’ve arrested some bugger by the name of Huang Li Man at the scene of the murders. A Singaporean, by the ID he was carrying. They’ve taken him to Tai Po nick (Chan had to stop himself from grimacing, Lo enjoyed his command of English colloquialism and continually referred to police stations as ‘nicks’). Get there quick and find out who the bugger is”. Chan remembered the name from looking at his list of calls just moments ago and wondered what the connection was.

Chan was not sure whether to be pleased or annoyed but if it gave him an excuse to get out of Lo’s presence then it had to be good.

Amy had called ahead so the O.I.C. at the Tai Po Police Station had been expecting him. He was taken to the interview room where Mr. Huang was being held. There was an officer, a Police Constable, in the room with him, but they weren’t talking, the PC was there to keep an eye on him. Huang stood up as Chan entered the room and Chan immediately noticed that he was wearing a traditional Chinese robe. He offered his hand to Chan who ignored it and sat down opposite him at the table.

Unperturbed, Huang resumed his seat and introduced himself. Chan bought himself some time by going through the single sheet of paper in the file he had been given. There wasn’t much, his name, nationality and profession - researcher into ancient eastern customs - all the makings of a nutter thought Chan whose headache suddenly returned.

“Mr……Huang,” Chan took some time pronouncing the name, there was no need to be rude, at this point. “What were you doing in a closed crime scene?”

“I’m sorry,” said Huang. “May I ask your name and rank”. Chan realised he had forgotten to introduce himself. His first instinct was to offer his hand but he managed to suppress the gesture. He wanted this man to know he meant business. Chan introduced himself and mentioned that he was from the officer of the Secretary for Security.

“Then you are the man I have been trying to contact”, said Huang, smiling broadly.

“Mr. Huang, I don’t think you realise the trouble you are in. You have been taken into custody for entering a closed crime scene and there are reasons to believe that you did so with ill-intent”.

“I can assured you,” said Huang, “that this is not the case. In fact, I am here to offer you my assistance to halt the killer you are seeking”.

‘Halt the killer,’ Huang had said, why didn’t he say, ‘catch the killer’, thought Chan.

Chan couldn’t conceal his interest. “And what exactly do you know about ‘the killer’?” He asked the PC to get the OIC to join them right away. He turned back to Huang and asked him to wait. Any information he had regarding this case should be given in the company of a trained police officer. Moments later, the OIC, Superintendent Lai and a DCI from PHQ were in attendance. They sat quietly at the corner, present and listening, but not taking part in the questioning. When they were settled Chan asked Huang to continue.

“I think I should introduce myself first. My name is Huang Li Man, I am originally from Wu Han Province but I was taken to Singapore as a child by my parents. My profession is…..well, let’s go into that later…………”.

He continued, “I have been following this killer, for several years now. I first became aware of it in 2007 when there was a series of murders in Terengganu in Malaysia. It was there that I started my research. The next scene was Kluang, also in Malaysia. Then there were several in Singapore before it moved on to Sandakan in Sabah, East Malaysia. These killings all took place within a very short space of time, say 19 months. Then the trail went cold. The thing, it appears, had gone to ground”.

Huang had referred to the killer as ‘the killer’, ‘it’ and then ‘the thing’. However, before Chan could seek clarification Huang was continuing.

“About a year ago I heard about the murders in the Tai Po Park and came to Hong Kong. I’m sorry to tell you that my worst fears were realised. It is the same killer that was responsible for the deaths I mentioned earlier in Malaysia and Singapore”.

“What……..”. Chan was just about to ask, ‘what is it’, but managed to stop himself. “Who is it we are looking for, Mr. Huang?”

“No, you were correct the first time, Mr. Chan. It is indeed, not ‘who’ we are looking for, but ‘What’”.

“It is a demon, Mr. Chan. Nothing more, nothing less. A demon that has existed for over a thousand years”.

Chan looked at the OIC and the PC for help. The headache was now almost blinding him.

“Call Sui Lam”, Chan said quietly to the OIC who got up and left the room.

Sui Lam was the detention centre that specialised in handling persons suspected of being mentally unbalanced. Chan would send him there for a few days ‘for observation’. It was much more simple than arresting the man. He asked the PC to compile everything they had on Huang and let him have it before he left.

“Mr. Huang,” this time Chan did pronounce it ‘Wong’. “I am ordering you to be held for a few days for observation in a secure establishment, it is not a prison. However, you will not be allowed to leave, for your own safety, until after the observation period is completed and I receive a report on your condition. Do you wish to contact the Singapore Consulate?”

“I am not insane Mr. Chan. I can give you dates, times and places for all the murders I have investigated over the years. You can see for yourself that I am telling the truth”.

Huang asked for a pen and paper and wrote down from memory, the names of the victims and where and when they were killed. It would be an easy matter for Chan to verify the truth of his claims.

Chan told the PC to include the list in the file and left the room. He needed a coffee and a Tylenol and better yet a stiff drink. He hoped the OIC would be kind enough to invite him to the Mess.

The OIC, Superintendent Lai, a long term service officer, was indeed kind enough to invite Chan to the Mess and they enjoyed a quiet beer in the corner of the bar. Chan stared into his glass wondering if he should take another Tylenol but was afraid the policeman would notice.

“When you arrested him, did he say anything reasonably sensible?” Asked Chan.

The OIC explained that he hadn’t been there at the time so he couldn’t answer accurately. According to the report, which Chan had, but hadn’t looked at yet, he had complied with the officers and not attempted to obstruct them in any way.

They were interrupted by Chan’s mobile, it was Amy. The newspapers were asking for an update and progress. They could only be kept in the dark for so long.

Chan told her that he would be back soon and to arrange something for the reporters. He looked at his beer and felt his stomach churning. Even getting drunk didn’t really appeal to him at this moment in time.

Part Three

On arriving back at his office Chan had called in one of his assistants. He handed the man Huang’s file, asked him to make a copy, put it in a Top Secret cover and send it to Security Wing asking for a full check on the man. Criminal background, social, education, whatever they could find. Glancing through the file he saw that Huang was staying at the Luen Sung Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, a three star establishment that would not draw undue attention, Chan recalled. “Get in touch with PHQ, I want a warrant to have his room searched asap”, Chan told his man. Then it was time for the press conference.

The secret to holding a successful press conference was to tell them everything they thought they wanted to know without actually telling them anything they needed to know. Chan was an expert at this, it was his forte, so to speak. Almost a dozen reporters from various papers, local and regional attended and went away happy, but not a lot smarter.

By now it was mid afternoon and Chan had still not had lunch. He asked Amy to order a sandwich for him and hoped that he would be left in peace to eat it. The headache he had suffered most of the day had subsided and for reasons which he couldn't put his finger on, he was feeling better about the case.


The Darkness had watched the drama of Huang’s arrest and detention. Of course he recognised the mortal. It was for this reason the Darkness decided to remain in the area. Although Huang had never actually posed a threat to his existence, it was interesting that the persistence he had displayed had led him all the way to Hong Kong. The Darkness had toyed with the idea of destroying the little man years ago but for reasons unbeknownst it had spared him. The next couple of days or weeks would be a challenge to its creativity. Over the centuries it had used snakes, rats, cows and even cats to do its bidding. The use of trees and egrets were a new venture and one that it had enjoyed immensely.


Huang had been handcuffed, gently, and transported to the Sui Lam Psychiatric Centre at Castle Peak. The officers at the station and the staff of the centre had shown him nothing but kindness and respect and he realised that it would be only to his benefit to cooperate with them.

He had submitted to a blood test, no doubt to find out if he’d taken an psychotropic drugs, and answered all the questions he had been asked. He had told the truth with every question, about his recent past.

Huang had told Chan that his parents had taken him to Singapore as a child and this was certainly true. What he had neglected to say was that he was a Yau Lung Bing Lang, a demon hunter, a demon killer. Under the tutelage of his Grandfather, he had dedicated his life to seeking out those beings that threatened humanity and sending them onwards, and downwards. He could sense that the Darkness knew of his presence and that placed him in great danger. The Darkness could control the meaner things in life, the animals, the trees, but while there was no evidence to show that it had ever possessed a human there was no doubt in Huang’s mind that it was a very real possibility that it might do so.

In 1966 Mao Tse Tung’s Cultural Revolution nearly destroyed what little remained of any goodness in the country. While the Red Guards ran rampant, enforcing Mao’s rules and dictates anyone that could get out was getting out. But, it was a risky business because if you got caught there was only one sentence.

The Wong family, which consisted of the grandfather, Huang’s mother and father were able to escape and, as they had money, were fortunate enough to end up in Singapore. Huang was three years old and remembered little of the journey, his father and mother survived only a few years after their arrival and he was brought up by his grandfather.

Huang was a gifted child, but his gifts were not those that other children might envy. He saw dead people, spirits, ethereal beings that shared the world with the living. For the most part they were harmless beings. Lost souls that, for reasons of their own had decided not to move on. Huang was able to see them as clearly as he saw his neighbours and when he asked his grandfather about the funny people that floated instead of walking down the street the old man realised that Huang was different. He was unsure as to whether it was a gift or a curse and knew that in order for it to be used correctly, his grandson would have to be trained. He was given a formal education at which he excelled. His tutors were disappointed when he told them he had no intention of entering a university. By the time he had passed his final exams he was adept at seeking out the ‘unhealthier’ types of spirits and had sent several of them on their way. He had also rescued numerous spirits that sought him out, seeking a way to their rest in the afterlife.

Huang’s grandfather, his last remaining relative, passed away on the morning of the 1st 30th July, 1997. They had been watching the Handover Ceremony of Hong Kong from the British back to China. He had been sitting quietly, watching the proceedings when he had just closed his eyes and let his head fall onto his chest. Huang felt the old man’s spirit passing through him as he went to his reward, happy in the knowledge that had done all he could to train, protect and temper Huang for the tasks to come. Then, in 2007 he received a message from one of the circle of friends his grandfather had introduced him to. He was told of a demon, very strong, very powerful, that had taken lives in the Terengganu district of Malaysia

Huang travelled there and visited the site where the victims had been killed. He sensed the demon, the Darkness, and knew that it was indeed, very old, very strong, very powerful and immensely evil. And the Darkness sensed him, and realised that for the first time in 1800 years it faced a real threat.

In the Sui Lam Centre, Huang had been kept in isolated observation for the first twelve hours so that the doctors could ascertain as to whether he was a threat to himself or anyone else. They noted that he was polite, answered all their queries without hesitation and obeyed their rules and regulations. There was nothing to indicate that the man suffered from mental problems, and as for his beliefs in demons and ghosts, well if that was a reason to lock someone up 98 percent of Hong Kong would be behind these walls, along with many of the doctors and nurses.

Huang was unsure of the time, they had taken his wristwatch, along with his other possessions. All he was permitted to keep was a small book of Buddhist teachings. They had obviously placed him on suicide watch because he noticed there was nothing in his small room with which he might injure himself. Lying on his bed he listened to the sounds of the nurses out in the corridor, the muted speech and the sounds of the trolley wheels as they went about giving medication to those that needed it more frequently. The trolley wheels stopped outside his room and he strained his ears for the slightest piece of information. Slowly, almost soundlessly, the door opened and a nurse moved part way into the room. She turned her head back to make sure there was no one outside that might hear her, then he sensed rather than heard, “There is danger. You must be ready to leave”.

Before Huang could say, or ask anything, the nursed disappeared outside and closed the door behind her. Huang did what he did best. He sent out ethereal feelers in an effort to pick up any danger. He sensed something. It was not good, but the threat was not immediate. For now.


Chan arrived at his office in the Secretary for Security’s section which consisted of two floors of Government Headquarters. He was hoping for a quiet day because apart from the nonsense with the Tai Po murders he had a great deal of other work to be getting on with. There was a meeting scheduled with the section heads for 11 a.m. but it was routine and he had not been asked to make any presentations. He knew that at some point in time he would have to contact the CID and see if there was any news from Sui Lam, but he was putting that off for as long as possible. It was not until after he had returned from the meeting that he received a phone call from DCI Wong at the CID. Huang had gone missing!

Chan felt his headache return with a thump! “How the hell did that happen?” He demanded of Wong.

“Apparently he just walked out in broad daylight, wearing his own clothes and smiling at everyone. The staff and security guards apparently just smiled back and waved him on his way”.

Good old Anglo-Saxon swear words erupted in Chan’s brain but he managed to prevent them from passing his lips. It would not do for an officer of the department of the Sec for Sec to be heard swearing at a senior police officer.

“I don’t suppose you have any idea of his whereabouts? Or is that too much to ask?”

The sarcasm was lost on Wong who told him that they had alerted the local police to be on the lookout for him. Police officers at the Mass Transit Stations had been provided with his photograph and told to keep an eye out for him. Just then Amy appeared at the door, she motioned to the telephone handset that was his direct link with Sec for Sec. Things were getting worse, much worse.

Chan finished the call with Wong as quickly as possible and headed for Sec for Secs office. Ms. Lau kept him waiting for the mandatory three minutes before allowing him into Alphonse Lo’s office. Chan was motioned to a chair and handed a report. It was marked Top Secret.

“‘We’ve received the report from Security Wing. That’s it!” He said, pointing towards the file. It was as if he had been personally responsible for demanding the report.

“And”, he continued, in a more ominous tone. “I received a call from the Chief Executive’s office”.

Oh shit, thought Chan. He didn’t need to ask, Lo was going to tell him all the gruesome details.

“When you ordered Security Wing to provide information on Huang they naturally contacted the Singapore Intelligence Service. It would appear that Huang’s name is flagged and when they ran his name through their system alarm bells started ringing. They got in touch with the Singapore Commission in Hong Kong and they, in turn, called the CE directly. They want him back, on the first available flight, unharmed, unmolested and in perfect health!”

“That’s going to be difficult Sir”, said Chan. He took a deep breath and told Lo about Huang’s escape from Sui Lam.

The Sec for Sec visibly blanched. It was the first time Chan had ever seen him at a loss for words. The two men sat in silence for a moment and then Lo picked up his phone and spoke to Ms. Lau. “Get me the Commissioner of Police”, he said and dropped the phone back into its cradle.

“OK”, said Lo, “I’ll deal with the CP, you get back to Tai Po in case the bugger turns up there. We’re on 24 hour call until we can hand this fellow back to the Singaporeans”.

Chan asked for permission to take the file on Huang and returned to his office. He told Amy to arrange for transportation in 45 minutes, that would give him time to go through the file for anything useful. “And tell the OIC I’m on my way”, he said.


Huang Li Man was sitting comfortably, eating noodles in a dai pai dong in Tsuen Wan. He had given up his traditional Chinese dress for a less noticeable T shirt and pair of slacks. The clothes had been provided by Nurse Suen. She had assisted in his ‘departure’ from Sui Lam. Between the two of them they had placed a short lived spell on the admin staff and security guards who had cheerfully handed over Huang’s belongings and allowed him to leave unmolested. When questioned by the irate management and police officers they had no recollection of ever having seen Huang. As for Nurse Suen, she was going off shift and there was no reason to suspect her of any wrong doing. Unfortunately, the security cameras had recorded her escorting Huang out of the facility. The police were now looking for her as well.

Huang knew that the Darkness was looking for him, as were the police. It was only a matter of time before either of them found him. He had to return to Tai Po and confront the demon before it had time to cause him harm, or escape.

Nurse Suen had given him as much information on how to get back to Tai Po without having to use the Mass Transit Railway system, in which the police certainly be looking for him. He still had no idea how to deal with the Darkness. It was strong, incredibly strong. It had sent feelers into the detention centre searching for him. The best Huang could hope for was a binding spell. The alternative was to tuck tail and run; hand himself in to the police and allow them to deport him to Singapore. He would be safe, but the Darkness would be left to continue its reign of terror. Why not leave it to someone else, a voice in his head asked him. Huang knew the answer without having to think. If he ran away and left the job to someone else then more people would die and their deaths would be on his conscience.

Huang finished his noodles and went looking for the red minibus that Nurse Suen had told him about. According to her, these minibuses were rarely stopped by the police for random checks and traveling on one would be his best bet to get back to Tai Po. He also needed to find a safe place to rest and recharge his energy. He would have to be at full strength when he faced the Darkness.


Chan was now back in Tai Po and sitting in a conference room that the OIC had put at his disposal. In the brief 45 minutes he’d had before leaving he had read the file on Huang. Apparently he had told the truth about everything. His arrival in Singapore, his family and his pursuit of some mysterious ‘killer’ that had embarrassed both the Malaysian and Singaporean governments.

The file had mentioned that Huang was a mystic of some sort and apparently well respected in the relevant circles throughout Asia. He was not a quack. But then there was no evidence to suggest that any of his claims were real. According to the report, one of those claims was that most countries in the Far East, Hong Kong being one of them, faced danger from ethereal beings that had existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

It was late afternoon now and the OIC was going to go out to the crime scene, he didn’t have to tell Chan that he was afraid of being usurped by the CID and anyone else that the Commissioner might sent his way. He, like Chan had worked long and hard to get the position he was in today and he wasn’t going to let the glory boys override him. Chan decided that there should be a representative from Sec for Sec there as well.


The Darkness sensed Huang coming closer. He wasn’t close enough to be a threat just yet, but the Darkness would have to deal with this mortal once and for all within the coming hours or days for it knew something that Huang did not.

Part Four

Chan and the OIC, Superintendent Lai, found the police officers guarding the crime scene on full alert. They had been told that the OIC was coming and didn’t want to be caught out. The entire situation was fraught, promotions, and even careers were at stake here.

While there was still some daylight remaining Superintendent Lai wanted to walk the entire length of the scene and invited Chan to accompany him. The two men set out with a PC and soon came to the tree where Angie Yung had been killed so horrendously. The scene was quiet, almost peaceful. It was hard to believe that such a terrible thing could have happened in such an idilic location. Chan had seen the autopsy pictures and knew how terrible the wounds had been. What kind of human being could have done such a thing, and then for a moment he remembered what Huang had told him. It was inconceivable that anything like the creature he described could exist. And certainly not for a thousand years!

Superintendent Lai suggested that they move on. His men had set up a command post in the park office and there would be hot tea waiting for them. In the company of the PC they walked towards the perimeter tape, neither of them aware of what was watching them from the branches above.


Huang had arrived un-arrested and unmolested in Tai Po and knew the first thing he had to do was find a safe place to rest and recover his strength. He found a ‘hotel’ just off Kwong Fuk Road and registered with the receptionist. The man didn’t bother asking for an identity card, Their usual clientele didn’t usually want their identities, or that of their ‘companions’, known.

He lay down in the tiny room which consisted only of a bed and a side table. He had just closed his eyes when there was a gentle knock on the door. He sent out mental feelers and sensed there was no danger. He opened the door a crack and found Nurse Suen, an elderly lady and two men, one also elderly, waiting outside. His ‘army’ had arrived.


Chan and Superintendent Lai drank sweetened tea from plastic cups and watched the monitors as the evening turned darker. There was a feeling of anticipation, although no one really knew what to expect. The best they could hope for was that Huang would be stupid enough to turn up so they could arrest the fool and ship him off back to Singapore. It wouldn’t solve the murders but at least it would clear up one very large part of the problem. Neither Chan nor Lai, nor any of the officers present noticed the egrets gathering in the trees overhead.


The Darkness also sensed that something was about to happen. Try as it might it couldn’t pin point Huang’s location. It knew he was close, but not exactly where he was. It also sensed the presence of others, but none of them were familiar to it.

It sent out mental instructions to the egrets that even then were gathering. It also garnered the support of every stray cat within a mile’s radius. Even now they were padding silently in the direction of the park. Ginger, black, calico, one-eyed, lame, the Darkness summoned them all.


Lai sent two of his plain clothed officers out to walk the length of the park. They both carried their service revolvers and hidden radios. They were to report anything unusual. Sgt. Lo and PC Chuen had set out, not expecting any trouble. They had been doing this beat for days now and in their opinion the killer was long gone. Why would a murderer remain in an area with this much of a police presence? They reached the end of the path and started back. Sgt. Lo called in a brief report to tell the OIC Lai where they were.

Sgt. Lo was a career officer. He had sat for and passed the exam for promotion to Inspector twice now. Unfortunately promotions in the force were very much based on dead men’s shoes. It didn’t matter if you had passed the exam, if there were no vacancies within a twelve month period from the date of passing, your name went to the back of the list and you had to resit the exam.

Lai had assured him that he would do his best to ensure that he didn’t miss out again and Lo believed him. Lai looked after his officers whether they were rank and file of inspectorate.

They were walking back now at a stroll, in no hurry to get back to the stuffy confines of the control room when Lo saw the cat. He pointed it out to Chuen, knowing that the PC was a cat lover. He was constantly bringing strays into the report room, feeding them out of his lunch box and then trying to find homes for them. He was constantly at logger heads with his wife and the people of the village where he lived for feeding an army of strays.

The cat was obviously a stray. A skinny ginger and unkempt, a sure sign that it was unwell, probably from malnourishment. Chuen crouched down and held out a hand to the cat, making encouraging noises to bring it closer. He and Lo were totally unprepared for what happened next. The cat moved backwards slightly and Chuen thought it was going to run away. Then it gathered its haunches and launched itself at Chuen’s face. The PC staggered backwards, taken totally by surprise and in terrible pain. The cat had buried its claws into his face just behind the eyes and cheek. It was trying to bite at his forehead. Chuen’s first reaction was to reach up and pull the animal away but its claws were embedded in his face. “Help”, he called out to Lo, who was standing there in shock. Snapping out of it he grabbed the cat and pulled it away, leaving several two inch long scratches on each side of Chuen’s face. Lo heaved the cat into the bushes and crouched, ready for it to spring back. He had seen dogs attack people, but never a cat!

Lo’s radio sprang to life. He had forgotten that it was permanently on and OIC Lai had obviously heard the commotion.

“It’s all right, we’re OK and on our way back”, said Lo.

Back at the control room they treated Chuen’s face with the First Aid they had on hand. One of the wounds had missed his right eye by millimetres. There was a lot of blood and the scratches would have to be treated at a hospital to prevent infection, but the man was going to be all right.

Lo explained to the OIC what had happened while Chan listened in. None of this was a coincidence! He realised that they needed Huang more than they thought. Where are you? Thought Chan, not realising that the Singaporean was closer than he could possibly imagine.

Lai instructed Lo to take Chuen to the Tai Po Hospital for treatment. There was a squad car waiting outside the park entrance so they could use that. The least publicity the better he thought. While Chuen was preparing himself Lo opened the door of the control room and shut it again with a slam and an exclamation.

“What now”, asked Lai.

“Cats”, said Lo. “Hundreds of them, everywhere”.

Chan, who had remained silent during the past few moments groaned inwardly. He could just see the headlines in the local press now: “Heavily Armed Police Squad Held Captive by Stray Cats”.

Lai cracked the door open closed it again quickly.

“He’s right! There’s hundreds of them”. Then the officers could hear their yowling. They were hungry!

He went to the monitors as did all the others. Cats, seemingly in their hundreds, were gathered outside the Control Room. As they watched one of the monitors went blank. They had cut the feed.

“All right!” Said Lai. “I’ve had enough of this. We need to get Chuen to the hospital and he needs to go now!”

One of the men unholstered his service revolver and Lai said, “No. For God’s sake no! We are not going down in history as the squad that shot its way out of a bunch of stray cats”!

He looked about the Control Centre and saw what he was looking for. The foam fire extinguisher.

“Lo, Chuen, get behind me. Everyone else stay here where you’ll be safe”.

Picking up the extinguisher he made sure that it was ready for use and nodded to one of the PCs to open the door. Moving outside quickly he sprayed foam through 180 degrees. The cats screeched and scampered out of the way. He gestured for Lo and Chuen to follow him and just at that moment an enormous calico Tom landed on his shoulder. This was no stray. It was a well fed domestic cat, it was even wearing a collar with a bell attached, and it bit into his neck, puncturing the jugular vein. In shock, Lai dropped the extinguisher and as it rolled away spraying foam, he grappled with the cat that had fastened itself to his neck.

Lo rushed forward to assist and grabbed the cat, the second time he had done such a thing in just a few moments, but the cat held fast, its teeth and claws fastened to Lai’s neck.

“Get if off!” Yelled Lai and Lo gave an almighty tug, and wished he hadn’t.

There was a spray of blood from Lai’s neck that shot a foot into the air. Stunned Lo stood there with the cat in his out spread arms when Chuen moved around in front of him. The PC drew his service revolver and for a dreadful moment Lo thought he was going to shoot the cat, and him. The PC, his face still a nightmare of streaked blood reversed the gun in his hand and struck the snarling animal on the head, smashing its skull. The cat went lifeless in Lo’s hands and he dropped the dead animal to the ground and together, they helped Lai back into the Control Room.

The Darkness was enjoying itself so much that it failed to notice the approach of the five mortals until it was too late. When it sensed the danger it sent out feelers and realised that they had surrounded the tree in which it sat.

The Control Room was in near pandemonium. They had gathered the little that remained of the First Aid, tissues, towels, anything that might staunch the bleeding from Lai’s neck. Chan even took off his neck tie and offered that. He watched helplessly, as they sat Lai in one of the chairs and held an ever-reddening compress to his neck. Then one of the PCs shouted out, “Look at this! Look at this!”

To a man they turned to one of the last remaining monitors. The tree where Angie Yung had been killed was glowing white and even in the interference of the monitor they could just make out the figures of five people linking arms around the foot of the tree.

The Darkness looked down from its perch in the top-most branches of the tree and saw five mortals, their hands linked, surrounding the foot of the tree. And it felt the coldness approach, creeping inexorably, up the tree to where it sat.


Huang, Nurse Suen and the three mystics had spoken in the cramped hotel room for some time. Later, Huang would wonder just how many words were actually spoken and how many thoughts had been passed through the ether they enjoyed as mystics.

The eldest amongst them, He shared Huang’s name, but pronounced in the Hong Kong style of Wong, knew of a spell that would bind the Darkness, for how long he knew not, but none of the others had anything else to offer. They listened intently as he taught them the liturgy they would recite. The most difficult part would be to get to the base of the tree before the Darkness sensed their presence. Fortunately, in its pride, the Darkness would solve that problem for them. They had rested for a while, waiting for the dark of night and then set off.


Chan and the policemen watched in amazement as the aura around the tree grew outwards and upwards. The tree started shaking madly, as if attacked by its own private tornado. Lai struggled to his feet.

“Come on”, he gasped. There were cries of concern from the officers but he was not to be denied. Holding his wounded neck with one hand he drew his service revolver with the other and led the way out the door. It didn’t occur to him, or the others that the cats would still be there. They were, but now they were cowering in the bushes. Whatever had possessed them earlier had since released them.

Lai’s shirt front looked as if it had been liberally dowsed in blood, the compress had slowed the bleeding but not stopped it, only sutures would do that, and that had to be soon, very soon. He was staggering by the time they reached the tree and two of the officers were supporting him. Before them stood a scene that not one of them could have ever imagined.

Three men and two women, some elderly, some younger, were holding hands around the base of the tree, chanting something unintelligible. Later, when the officers tried to describe what they had heard not one of the versions jelled with the other. There was a glow of light which pulsed upwards, enveloping the tree, its branches, and as they watched leaves fell from the tree as if it was autumn. The trunk of the tree was slowly turning pale white as if it was being petrified.


The Darkness felt fear for the first time in its eighteen hundred years of existence. Nothing could kill it, of that it was sure. But it was being frozen, frozen in time and space. It looked down and in its glare there was pure hatred for the five mortals below it.

The spell that Wong had created was that of intense coldness. The same coldness that had frozen the world centuries ago. As the earth freezing chill made its way up the tree the Darkness was trapped. Reluctantly it released its hold on the egrets, the cats and every other creature it had enslaved. The cats slinked off into the bushes, the egrets flapped away to their normal perches at the end of the Lam Tsuen River, confused, and wondering why they were so far inland.

Slowly, the Darkness lost its senses, its feelings. It withdrew into itself much like a human suffering hypothermia. They could not kill something that had never existed in real form. It would wait, bide its time, and return to speak vengeance on the mortals that had done this.

Then it froze.


The officers surrounded the five people at the foot of the tree but did not interfere with them. Slowly, the glow receded and one of the PC turned on a flashlight. The tree was now a light to dark blue in colour. He looked up and saw that every single leave the tree had possessed was gone, the branches, all of them, were the same colour as the trunk. Then one of the five collapsed to his knees. the circle broke and went to his aid. It was Huang that cradled, what they now knew to be an elderly man, in his arms. Nurse Suen pulled open Wong’s collar and stroked his forehead.

Lai, only semi conscious now and wavering on his feet, leaned forward and croaked a question.

Huang turned to him and said, “What happened? Something that should have happened many years ago”. He asked for an ambulance and turned back to the old man. No sooner were the words were out of his mouth when he heard the sounds of a siren. The call had gone out, officers injured, one seriously. The ambulance would be here shortly and paramedics would arrive to ferry the injured to the emergency clinic in Tai Po Hospital. But for old Wong it would be too late. With a mental farewell to the others, he closed his eyes and went to a well earned rest. Huang held him, put his face to the old man’s forehead and wept.

The End

Daylight revealed that the tree had indeed been petrified. Its body was as hard as rock. Chan, in his capacity as an officer of the Secretary for Security ordered that the park be quarantined for an indefinite period.

Lai survived his injuries, barely. He had lost a great deal of blood and needed several pints to save his life. The officers of Tai Po Police Station lined up at the hospital to donate.

Chuen had suffered only superficial wounds but unfortunately some of the scars healed just above his mouth and across his cheeks. Behind his back he was known as ‘Cat Man’, but few had the courage to say it to his face. He continued to feed the strays in and around his village.

Lo was promoted to Probationary Inspector and after a year made Inspector. He sat for the Senior Inspectors exam which he passed with flying colours and went on to enjoy a distinguished career.

None of the officers present at this last operation would ever speak about their experience. It had been suggested to them that it would be good for their careers if they were to remain silent. It was unlikely that anyone would have believed them anyway.

Nurse Suen returned to her position at the Sui Lam Centre, the others in ‘Huang’s Army’ disappeared back into the obscurity they had come from. No one ever learned their names. Many of the officers present could not even remember having seen them. Wong was given a pauper’s funeral. It was what he wanted, and anyway, for Wong, death was not the end but the beginning of a new adventure. His ashes were scattered over the Eastern hills of Lantau Island.

Edwin Chan returned to the Secretary for Security where he remained for only five months. Much to the distress of Alphonse Lo, the ‘Sec for Sec’, Chan resigned after he had been invited to take up residence in Singapore. His sponsor was Huang Li Man. The man had much to teach him.

And atop a petrified tree, still labeled, ‘Tectona Grandis of the family Verbenaceae’, in Tai Po Park, the Darkness glared down from its frozen dungeon. Waiting for the day it would be released.

It had survived for over a thousand years, it had learned patience………

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Asian Human Rights Commission - Impunity to do wrong..!

(Lanka-e-News- 24.Aug.2014, 7.00PM) Information has been received that the executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, a regional NGO based in Hong Kong, has been telling falsehoods to members of his staff with regard to payments and other matters and that the management and chairman of the board have offered him impunity.

This is of particular concern as the issue of impunity has been at the forefront of the AHRC’s attacks on the Sri Lanka Police Service and other branches of the government, including ministers at high levels, for many years. It is therefore shocking that this organisation is hypocritical enough to allow the same impunity to its own executive in order that he can do as he wishes with his staff.

The information, as we have received it concerns three issue; the first was an application of a salary advance by one of their staff. In February of this year he applied for a salary advance from Bijo Francis, the executive director and was informed that he (Francis) was no longer in a position to grant such advances. He actually used the wording, “ it is no longer within my remit”, and that he would have to seek the approval of the board. However, within weeks of making this statement and in the full hearing of other members of staff he granted such an advance to one of his cronies, thereby proving that his earlier comments were obviously false. If Francis did not want to grant the salary advance he could have simply informed the staff member that, in his capacity as executive director, he had elected not to do so. However, that would have been an inconvenient truth. Sadly, he found it more convenient to tell a convenient lie.

The second incident involved a letter purported to be from the management committee in which he informed a member of staff that he was being reprimanded and that the committee had agreed on the content and the issuance of the said letter. However, inquiries made with two members of the management committee confirmed that neither of them had knowledge of either the contents of, or the issuance of the letter. If Francis had omitted the part about the letter being approved by the committee there would have been no problem. However, that would have been an inconvenient truth. By hiding behind the management committee Francis committed another convenient lie.

The third incident involved the long term service award of an outgoing member of staff. In the Hong Kong SAR there are two sums of money involved when an employee leaves a company. One is the long term award and the second is the Mandatory Provident Fund which all employers are required to contribute to. The staff member was informed of the amount that he was to receive as a long term award and was surprised as the employer has the right to deduct any contributions to the MPF. After making inquiries of Francis in the presence of the Admin manager he was told that his MPF award would NOT be affected. However, upon receipt of the payment by the relevant bank he found that the sum of HK$ 88,000 (USD 11,000) had been deducted. The staff member gave Francis every opportunity to explain the situation but the latter dodged the question and left the matter to Mr. Basil Fernando to explain. In an obviously contrived letter Fernando informed the staff member that they had done all in their power to pay the person everything he was entitled to. What he failed to explain was why Francis had once again been permitted to lie to a member of staff with impunity. 

Sadly the matter did not end there. It was shocking that Mr. John J. (Jack) Clancey, the chairman of the board of directors, having been made aware of the actions of his executive director, would take his side after being presented with documentary evidence. 

Another matter was raised personally with Clancy a few weeks later but, as it was of a very sensitive and personal nature involving several members of the staff, it cannot be revealed here for fear of causing embarrassment to the innocent persons affected. Suffice to say that rather than be concerned at the information presented to him so that he might take some form of action to avoid the potential of embarrassment to the AHRC, Clancy threatened the informant with legal action.

It is appalling that despite their very public stand for over 15 years on the issue of impunity for wrongdoing, the management and directors of the Asian Human Rights Commission are prepared to turn a blind eye to the actions of their own executive director.
-By a special correspondent-

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gainfully Unemployed

Dear Friends and Readers,

Just a quick post to let you know that I have now left the Asian Human Rights Commission and am teaching English Conversation; a job that I thoroughly enjoyed in the past.

I am also doing freelance editing work so if anyone has any editing requirements please contact me at

Thank you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dear Friends,

Counting down the days to my departure from the Asian Human Rights Commission. My last day is the 30th June but I will actually leave at 1 PM on the 27th.

Many good memories and some sad

We fought tooth and nail for five years to save the life of Rizana Nafeek, a 17-year-old Sri Lankan girl falsely accused of murdering an infant in Saudi Arabia, before the bastards beheaded her, regardless of international condemnation and pleas for clemency from heads of state and royalty. I think it was the first and only time I actually wept over a case. There were also many happy moments and Michael Anthony Emanuel Fernando receiving refugee status was one of them. For those of you unfamiliar with the case Tony is now living happily in Europe.

I will never forget Basil’s patience and compassion during my late wife’s illness. It was a trying time and there were moments when I was not a nice person to be around. When Quirina passed away on the 1st December, 2009, the staff and management of the AHRC rallied round and I will never forget the kindness and support shown to myself and my son, James. 'Rina and I had been married for 28 years.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

PAKISTAN: The practice of fake police encounters exposed through a live video recording by the media

This is one of the most important statements ever produced by the AHRC Pakistan Desk - it shows the unadulterated brutality of the Pakistani police.

May 14, 2014


The citizens of Pakistan watched a video recording of a police encounter on all the television channels where a man who had been pronounced dead started crying and screaming that he was alive. The police ignored his cries for help and dragged him by the hair into a police van. He was taken to a mortuary and thrown in the morgue along with three other accomplices. The 'dead man' continued to cry out for some time, begging for someone, anyone, to save him inside the morgue, but no one came to his assistance. In fact, his life could have been saved if the police had admitted him to a hospital which was just ten minutes away from the location where the fake encounter occurred.

On May 12, the police claimed that they had raided a house in Badami Bagh, Lahore, the capital of Punjab province where some robbers were hiding. The police used one suspect, Sarfaraz Ahmed Jhangvi, as an informer to show them the hide out. The police claim that at the time of the raid the robbers opened fire at the police and in retaliation the officers returned fire. As a result of the shootout all three robbers along with the informer, Sarfaraz Jhangvi, were killed. However, the family members of the victims claim that the accused persons had already been in the custody of the police and that the officers brought them to the location of the encounter in the late hours of Monday evening and killed them. The residents of the community stated to the media that they had heard the shots and had been instructed by the police to remain in their houses. After some time they watched as the police started moving the bodies to their van.

Anyone watching one of the videos (as seen here) can plainly see that Sarfaraz Jhangvi was still very much alive when he was being taken to the morgue. The same video also reveals that another of the victims was in handcuffs at the time of the shooting. The cuffs were later removed at the morgue. Sarfaraz Jhangvi can be seen raising his head as he calls for help, a policeman forces his head down. The police party drove directly to a mortuary and dumped Sarfaraz Jhangvi in the morgue along with the others. The official police version is that he died inside the police van while it was on the way to the morgue. Despite the fact that he was obviously alive they police never stated in their media interviews that they were taking him to a hospital.

To back up the claim by the relatives that they had already been in custody prior to the shooting, one of the robbers was in hand cuffs on arrival at the morgue and it was only then they were removed. The police claimed that the four persons were involved in over 300 cases of robberies, rapes and kidnapping for ransom.

Please see the following videos and news links of various media reports in which he can clearly be seen that the 'dead man' was begging for help:

After the huge media coverage the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, announced the formation of an inquiry committee to probe the incident but has not taken any departmental action to avoid any interference by the police into the inquiry. Shahbaz Sharif is famous when it comes to police encounters. When he was Chief Minister in the government of 1997 several cases of fake encounters were framed against him by the family members of the victims. The cases remained pending in the courts until 2012 when he, being the Chief Minister, influenced the judges and exonerated himself. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has reported that during 2013, 217 cases of extrajudicial killings were reported from Punjab province. This is still the continued practice of instant justice by the Punjab government.

Due to the absence of a proper criminal justice system and the existence of the weak rule of law, the law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, enjoy impunity for not respecting the right to life. The government does not focus on the rule of law but rather the maintenance of what they consider to be law and order. This has created the problem of continuous fake encounters which result in the killings of innocent people.

The police and law enforcement agencies (LEA) have been given authority to violate the dignity and respect for the right to life of the citizens. Through the impunity the LEA have been given full protection for the illegal acts and supra constitutional methods. In Pakistan there is no longer any obligation for anyone with a criminal charge to be entitled to a fair trial and due process.

Extrajudicial executions manifest rooted problems within the law enforcement and criminal justice machineries of these states. Statutory impunity provided to state agencies to undertake extrajudicial executions, under the guise of the maintenance of law and order. This has resulted in an alarming increase in the number of extrajudicial executions throughout the country.

The government, instead of reforming its criminal justice system to enable speedy trial, fair investigation, and proper prosecution, has given inordinate power to police, military, and other law enforcement agencies to restrict fundamental rights of the people in the name of fighting crime.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to remind the government of Pakistan that international human rights law requires that police killings are thoroughly investigated, and that the police officials responsible for unlawful actions are prosecuted and convicted. The AHRC also urges the government to form a high judicial powered commission to probe the instances of fake police encounters, particularly in Punjab province, where this has reached epidemic proportions. The government of Punjab finds it easy to resort to encounters and terrorising the whole society in order to keep them under control.

The AHRC praises the courageous cameraman who took this video.

Document Type :Statement
Document ID :AHRC-STM-087-2014
Countries : Pakistan
Issues : Right to life, Rule of law, Arbitrary arrest and detention, Extrajudicial killings, Impunity

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

PAKISTAN: Is the battle with the media becoming the military's Waterloo?

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission

Baseer Naweed and Stewart Sloan

The attempted murder of an anchorperson of a popular media house triggered the open discussion on the role of the ISI in dealing with the freedom of expression and the media as a whole. Indeed, this is not the first occasion that the role of the ISI was brought up as a conspirator in the affairs of the state. However, the involvement of the ISI has always been swept under the carpet on the pretext of national security and potential threats to Pakistan from neighbouring countries. The ISI are portrayed by the government as a professional intelligence organisation, protectors of Islam and the ideological boundaries of Pakistan.

The role of the ISI was discussed the world over when Osama bin Laden (OBL) was killed in a well-orchestrated raid by U.S. Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011, The raid on OBL's compound in Abbottabad, was launched from Afghanistan. The ISI was exposed in that it had close connections with al Qaeda and the Taliban when they purposely concealed the world's most wanted man. The United States had direct evidence that the ISI's former chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of OBL's presence in Pakistan. At first the military establishment denied that it had any connection with the raid or that it had any part in hiding OBL. However, the excuses and explanations offered by the military establishment and the government did not hold water. As a result of this they took another tack and charged the U.S. for violating, not only the sovereignty of the country but also committing an act of aggression. Once again the ISI was spared and the U.S. was denounced as an enemy of Pakistan and Islam as well.

It has become blatantly evident that the ISI has been involved in the arrest and enforced disappearances of thousands of innocent persons. The family members of disappeared or extrajudicially killed persons have stated and even testified that their loved ones were arrested by the ISI, following which they were disappeared or killed in detention. At the moment there are hundreds of such cases in the higher courts of the country wherein, even the judges have blamed, 'secret agencies' (pointing their fingers towards the ISI) for the disappearances. However, in not one hearing has any representative of the 'secret agencies' ever appeared in the courts despite several reminders.

Some relevant history

Since the creation of Pakistan it was felt that there was a need for an intelligence agency on the working of the three wings of the armed forces. The Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) was created in 1948 in order to form an exclusive intelligence agency for the three services. Although the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Military Intelligence (MI) had been created the year after independence, in the presence of growing complaints by the military concerning the weak performance of the MI in sharing intelligence with the army, navy and air force during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 this led to the creation of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 1948.

Interestingly, the ISI was the brainchild of an Australian-born, British Army officer, Major General Robert Cawthome, then Deputy Chief of Staff in the Pakistan Army. Designed to be operated by officers from the three military services, its function was to collect, analyze and assess external intelligence, either military or non-military. Initially, the ISI was not concerned with the collection of domestic intelligence except for that gained in the former N.W.F.P (which is now KPK) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

When General Ayub Khan became president in late 1958 he made use of the ISI and MI to monitor opposition politicians in order to sustain military rule in the country. The ISI was reorganised in 1966 after intelligence failures in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and further expanded in 1969 when Khan entrusted the ISI with the responsibility for the collection of internal political intelligence in what was then East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Its role was expanded when it was tasked with performing a similar intelligence gathering operation in Balochistan.

When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to power in the new Pakistan in December, 1971 he was critical of the ISI and gave them the new task of gathering intelligence from Afghanistan. This was during the cold war era when Afghanistan was thought to be a puppet of the USSR. He also gave the ISI the task of spying on the activities of his political opponents. Sadly he was unaware that the ISI had their own agenda and they were instrumental in toppling his government by organising country-wide agitation on the pretext that he was rigging the election. The ISI was also part of the conspiracy which led to his execution by hanging.

When the former Chief of Army Staff, General Zia-ul-Haq seized power on 5 July, 1977, he expanded the ISI once again by making it responsible for the collection of intelligence about the Pakistan Communist Party and particularly Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP).

The ISI today

Several reports have surfaced recently concerning the alleged connection of the ISI and the military establishment with terrorist organisations that are planning strikes against US and foreign embassies in the East.

In an article which appeared in the South Asia Monitor, Pakistan-backed Indian Mujahideen - down but certainly not out!, by Ajai Sahni, the author makes the assertion that Pakistan's MI is backing the Indian Mujahideen (IM), which has, "…..been declared by many as one of the most lethal Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorist organisations operating in India……". It must be noted that in view of the direct connection between Pakistan's MI and the ISI it is evident that not much happens without the approval of the hierarchy of the ISI.

A further report involved the arrest of a Sri Lankan national alleged to be an ISI agent who was a Pakistani official based in Sri Lankan. The suspect, originally from Kandy was remanded in judicial custody by a Magistrate's Court in Chennai, India. Zaheer Hussain (37), allegedly linked to a Pakistani terror organisation, was ceased in a joint operation of Central and state police forces. According to reports by Indian intelligence, Hussain has been instructed by a senior official in the Pakistan High commission in Colombo, "….to recruit youths from South India, especially in Tamil Nadu for terror activities…..". The same intelligence report went on to say that, "…..a person with close links with a Pakistan high commission official in Colombo was involved in head hunting for the ISI….".

Hussain was remanded in Puzhal prison and charged under IPC 120 B (conspiracy) and 480 C besides sections 16 and 17 of Prevention of Unlawful Activities. The Indian press speaks of Husain's, "explosive confessional statement", which was sent to the Indian home ministry, but it can only be left to the imagination as to how such a 'confession' was obtained. It has, however, sent shock waves through the country's anti-terror agencies.

Within Pakistan

It is widely accepted that the government of Pakistan and the military and intelligence agencies in the form of the ISI are supporting the Pakistani and Afghan al Qaeda networks and Islamic extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba. For some time now there has been a policy of appeasement by the government towards any acts of the two Taliban organisations. No doubt the origin of this policy came from the ISI who want, very much, to be the handlers of these organisations.

The Pakistan Intelligence community also maintains a significant presence in Balochistan. The ISI is responsible for strategic intelligence as well as conducting operations and has a large element in Quetta. The ISI's Joint Signals Intelligence Bureau (JISB) operates signal intelligence collection stations in Saindak which covers the western border and in Gwadar which covers the shipping lanes of the Gulf of Oman. In addition to the ISI each service has military intelligence assets, collectively known as the MI, which support tactical requirements. The IB is the oldest intelligence entity in Pakistan which traces its heritage back to British India. The IB conducts federal investigations in Balochistan along the lines of the United States, Federal Bureau of Investigation and also supports the military establishment. Finally, there are the special branches of the provincial and local law enforcement that conduct criminal intelligence.

Clearly, Pakistan's security establishment is unwilling to stop the growing power of the dreadful extremists of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi while their own 'death squads' have the reputation of pursuing and killing insurgents with great efficiency. It seems that as in the past; like the use of the Taliban in the 1990s, that of local militant groups in Kashmir, and that of sectarian groups like the SSP in the 1980s, the security establishment considers the LeJ as an ally in Balochistan with the apparent aim of controlling the unruly province with the help of religious forces that have little in common with the secular orientation of the Baloch rebels and are controlled by ethnic Punjabis like Malik Ishaq. LeJ and their Pakistani allies are believed to have the sympathies if not the active support of the Saudis although there seems to be little doubt about the funds that generously flow to these groups from the Arabian Gulf. These militants are also hostile to the neighbouring Shia Iran due to their religious beliefs. Hazara Shias, a peaceful community, has thus become a victim and cannon fodder in this high stake and deadly game to promote hatred and extremism in order to keep Balochistan under the grip of the security establishment which has found the challenge of fighting the insurgents rather daunting in the last six years.

Several reports have surfaced about the direct connection of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in international terror plots.

In July, 2011, journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad disappeared and his mutilated body was found bearing horrendous injuries. Saleem Shahzad had reported on the possible link between the Pakistan navy and al Qaeda. It is believed that he was picked up by the ISI in order to find his source of information. The United States of America later openly accused the ISI of involvement in his torture and death. The government of Pakistan referred to the allegations as an 'international conspiracy to defame the country's law enforcement agencies". The US backed up their claim by saying that it was the result of new classified intelligence.

Mr. Umer Cheema, a senior journalist at The News International, a daily newspaper based in Islamabad, was kidnapped, tortured and humiliated for six hours on September 4, 2010. He was picked up in cloak-and-dagger style in the early hours by men in commando uniforms and driven to a "safe house". Here unknown persons took over; he was beaten black and blue, humiliated beyond comprehension, he was made to strip off his clothes, hung upside down and remained in illegal custody for hours. Finally, he was thrown out on the roadside at Talagang, 120 kilometres from Islamabad with a shaved head and a threatening message for Ansar Abbasi, the head of the newspaper's investigative section. In the murder of journalist Hyatullah Khan, a judicial commission was formed which came out with the opinion that the secret agencies of the military were involved (again, fingers were pointed at the ISI), however, the government has not made the report public and when Khan's widow began to pursue the case she was also murdered and the ISI was given immunity.

Following the case of the assassination attempt on the anchorperson, Hamid Mir the ISI came under direct attack from the media houses and journalists as Mir and his brother accused the ISI chief of direct involvement in the attack. For a few days the media houses agitated on this incident and the prime minister himself sided with Mir and visited him in the hospital. In a quick reaction the Chief of Army Staff visited the ISI headquarters and showed his solidarity with the chief of the agency. This created a rift between the civilian and military establishments.

The ISI quickly organised religious, militant and banned terrorist organisations to come out and agitate in its favour. They also organised the media houses that were not in favour of those that had criticised the ISI.

It is no secret for the citizens of Pakistan that the ISI is very much involved in the local politics and knows exactly how to deal with the opponents. The military establishment and the government too, do not provide any logic behind the continuation of the existence of the ISI on the exchequer. However, they constantly wheel out the theory that behind the suicide bombings, terrorist attacks of the Taliban, the insurgencies in Balochistan and Sindh, there are foreign hands, particularly those of India and the USA.

If for a moment we agree to this notion of a foreign conspiracy and their involvement in Pakistan's internal affairs then it means that our intelligence agencies, particularly the ISI has failed to perform its real task to protect the interests of the country.

It is evident that the ISI was always opposed to civilian rule and involved in purchasing the loyalties of politicians through coercion, intimidation, black mail and overt threats to kill them. The agency has always remained as a partner in the growing corruption, particularly in the big foreign dealings of arms and ammunition and also land grabbing. Its agenda is to control, not only domestic issues, but also foreign policy. The Secretary of the Ministry of Defence cannot be appointed without clearance from the ISI and the secretary must be selected from among the retired generals.

Once, when the former Prime Minister, Yousuf Gillani, tried to put the ISI under the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the military establishment became very angry and used all its cronies, the banned terrorist organisations, the media houses and opposition parties to agitate against the decision. Finally the ISI succeeded and it was released from any civilian oversight.

This time it has again clashed horns with the journalists, their organisations and a popular media house to punish them for open discussions on the role of ISI. It will be interesting to see who will win.

It is inconceivable for the military mindset that if they won the war against media then still it would be difficult to defeat the power of the pen with arms and ammunition. For an army which has never won once in five wars over a period of 65 years the media will become their Waterloo.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Human rights abuses by the American forces in Iraq

Stewart Sloan
Thursday, 17 April 2014 11:59

I am not suggesting for one minute that two wrongs make a right or that Sri Lanka should not be held accountable. However, the call by the Sri Lankan government that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones is a valid one. The United Nations and the United States of America are calling for an investigation into human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government and LTTE. Sadly, one of the regular responses by the Sri Lankan government to the call for accountability is the fact that the UN has never hauled up the US for the now, well documented accusations, of human rights abuses in Iraq, including the horrific torture of literally thousands of detainees. I am not suggesting for one minute that two wrongs make a right or that Sri Lanka should not be held accountable. However, the call by the Sri Lankan government that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones is a valid one.

Following the 'successful defeat' of Saddam Hussein's forces the Americans then had to face an unexpected foe. The Sunnis were rising up in opposition to the 'democracy' that the occupation forces were attempted to impose. The American's found a convenient ally in the form of the Shia that had been brutally oppressed by Saddam. This harassment included chemical weapon attacks which were condemned internationally. However, it is fully documented that the Americans used white phosphorus and napalm on the Iraqi civilians. One of their explanations was that the weapon they were using was not, in fact, napalm but some other weapon. It was later revealed that it was indeed napalm, they had just changed the name.

The Shia were formed into police militias, trained and armed by the American and set lose on the Sunni population in order to quell them. No one knows the exact number of illegal detention cells that were set up by the Shia militia but they were created with the full knowledge of the Americans. Thousands of people were horrendously tortured and one of those methods used was by hanging the victim upside down and using an electric drill on several parts of his body. Once again, this was done with the full knowledge of the Americans, one of them being General David Howell Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq at that time.

Allow me to repeat that the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE must be held accountable to the UN and the international community for crimes against humanity and the human rights abuses committed. However, for the international community not to demand accountability from the United States of America is hypocrisy in the extreme.

Please see the following videos for further information. The videos may not be suitable for some. If they don't work you can block and copy the titles into your browser.

Eyewitness account of the Haditha massacre of an Iraqi girl's family
Fallujah:" The Hidden Massacre" Documentary-Iraq War
James Steele: America's mystery man in Iraq