As I am writing this passage, an 18-year-old high school student is relying on an artificial to sustain minimal survival in a hospital. He was shot next to chest bone on October 1, 2019 during a protest, resulting in a rupture of his left lung. He is part of the movement that started on June 9 when one million people protested against the extradition law. Most of us did not have much faith in an undemocratic government to retract the bill. With a delay of over a hundred days, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Chief Executive (CE) eventually announced the withdrawal of the bill. It appears to be a straight forward closure of the entire movement. Yet four months have passed, the momentum has not ebbed, and the energy has not dissipated. We have witnessed a diversity of civil resistances, such as peaceful rallies with millions, non-violent flash mob chanting in public space, singing a unifying anthem in shopping malls, boycott of pro-China businesses and restaurants, to the recent vigilantism. Foreign media often pose questions like, “when do you think this is going to end?” “After all, what are you asking for?” I don’t have a concrete answer to any of these questions. We are witnessing a historical revolution in Hong Kong where people no longer seek systemic justice from within flawed institutions. It is a solidarity movement that cuts across all classes, genders, occupations and age groups. Hong Kongers are proactively defining our own identity out of the narrative vacuum after a hundred years of colonial history and 22 years after the handover to China.
In response to the repetitive and hollow official press conferences, the Citizen’s Press Conference (CPC) was held. Many thought of it as a mere mockery. The team, however, outperforms the government with their political literacy. From featuring sign language interpreters, presentation of survey report, to well-prepared answering journalists’ incisive questions, and including voices of victims and professionals in corresponding topics, the team has showcased the capacity in coordination and leadership with limited resources. While many do not see how an inherently flawed and unjust bureaucracy can bring about any substantial change, they see unwavering potential in youngsters at occasions like the CPC. Since June 12, my friends and I have been posting enlarged images of police brutality on the street. For most middle-aged and elderly groups, their major channel to receive information, especially news is television. Unfortunately, TV industry is dominated by a broadcast company with clear inclination in favour of the government and police, censorship of brute violence committed by law enforcers, and often decontextualized protesters’ actions which appear to be groundless and ad-hoc. When revolution cannot be televised, the circulation of its images belong to the street. Our group enlarges censored images to 1:1 body height, and posts them in populated areas before major protests. In my own time, I also share summarized and translated news with foreign media to ensure they understand the movement in a local context. Lining up and coordinating with foreign feminist groups in response to sexual violence committed by the police also become a way to empower victims and make their voice heard when local authorities neglect them.
Hong Kongers’ calendar is circulated online, through airdrops, and posted on Lennon Walls. At first it was a monthly schedule that indicates weekend rallies with various themes in different districts. The government turns a deaf ear to protesters’ five demands which include universal suffrage and disbanding the police force. Demonstrations are one of the most common and conventional way to seek for justice, but not necessarily effective. Unheard voices cannot contain themselves. The slogan has evolved from “Hong Kongers, march on” to “Hong Kongers, resist”. Protesters reclaim public space through shopping mall choirs, human chains on the symbolic landscape of the Lion Rock, around secondary school campuses, disco night with laser pen in the most commercialized area in town. “Back to normal” becomes a paradox because we fully realize the impossibility of “going back”, and at the same time acknowledge turmoil and constant resistance as “normality”. Everyone, every place, every form of action is valued and dedicated to the change we want to see. Each of these small acts in itself is insufficient to overthrow the tyranny. Protesters are often condemned to have tampered the city’s prosperity and stability. Yet what we have torn down is the inglorious facade we helped to sustain through silence and repression. Expression is hence violent for it poses disharmony to the orchestrated peace desirable to the rich. Some may disagree, but each and every vandalized property is an articulation of unequivocal dissidence, with clear political message. Disorder and disobedience do not prevail only in rallies but in every single public place.
An everlasting solidarity among protesters and opposition against the tyranny are incorporated into our daily lives. Singing anthems in shopping malls, origami cranes as blessing for the injured, memorial service for the deceased naturally become part of the weekly schedule. There are many youngsters in the frontline where 10% of the arrestees are under 15. Schools and adults start to reflect upon the alarming situation where future generations are underrepresented and powerless yet still feel the urge to stand up against injustice at the forefront. A group of friends and I have organized civic education workshops for secondary students on topics that are considered sensitive on school campuses. We invited guests of a diversity of backgrounds including amateur politicians, artists, clinical psychologists, doctors and journalists. By organizing and speaking at these workshops, we are slowly connecting with underage students, and providing a platform for them to articulate their minds in a safespace and also to acquire a fuller picture of what is happening around them. “Connecting”, we believe, is a keyword of this movement. We are in fact going through a collective trauma, but at the same time, a collective therapy session where horizontal relationships built upon the notion of “Hong Kongers”, and it empowers the frail, the wounded. At times of dreaming and uncertainties, a space is also opened up for everyone to realize our ideals. This, I believe, is all this movement is about.■