Days after attracting fierce public criticism for asserting that police had kicked a “yellow object” in a Yuen Long alleyway in a now infamous incident captured on video, the force on Friday changed its assessment somewhat, saying while the subject is indeed a man, there’s no evidence that he was kicked at all.

Acting senior superintendent of New Territories North, Vasco Williams, had on Monday disputed allegations that a video of the incident last Saturday showed an officer kicking a yellow-shirted man during an anti-government protest, saying what had been kicked may have been a man, a bag, or a vest, as the video was out of focus.

“You mentioned a video in which it shows what appears to be an officer kicking a yellow object on the ground. Now, we don’t know what that object is”, Williams had said.

The reference to the “yellow object” was dropped at the police’s latest regular press briefing on Friday.

But chief superintendent John Tse from the Police Public Relations Branch explained that after reviewing several videos and other information, officers still cannot substantiate claims that anyone was kicked.

He said the only thing they can confirm so far, is that the man in question had bitten an officer when he was being handcuffed.

“From the videos circulating online so far, basically we still cannot substantiate such a serious allegation – i.e. our officers kicking the man”, Tse said. “And what we can confirm so is that our officer – one officer at least – was carrying a shotgun on the shoulder and it swung on top of that arrested person. That’s what we can see clearly on one of the videos.”

Tse also pointed out that Williams had never ruled out the possibility that the yellow ‘object’ was in fact a man, as that had been one of the possibilities put forward.

The chief superintendent also said separate allegations that detainees had been mistreated at the controversial San Uk Ling holding centre near the border had no merit.

“I must stress, the decision to stop using San Uk Ling has nothing to do with the groundless claims alleging the police of misconduct, like excessive use of force and sexual harassment”, Tse said.

The Chief Executive, Carrie Lam had on Thursday revealed that the centre was no longer in use, following persistent rumours that detainees were abused there.

Tse explained that the force decided to stop using the facility after early September, to put a stop to more speculation, as repeated clarifications from police had failed to stem rampant rumours of police abuse that have been circulating online.

Tse said the centre had been used four times since the anti-government protests began in June. Before that, it was mainly used to hold illegal immigrants.

At its peak, he said as many as 75 anti-government protesters were detained there.

“We understand the San Uk Ling centre is relatively remote and not well connected to the city centre, with not many options of transport, and it is [unavoidable] that when there is need to arrange medical or legal assistance for arrested people, it takes longer time compared with normal circumstances. We understand there is some discrepancy between public expectation and our actual arrangement”, Tse said.