Hong Kong Apostasy
Opponents and critics of the young protesters in Hong Kong have often derided them as 廢青 fèi qīng — ‘chavs’, ‘wastrels’, ‘fainéants’, ‘good-for-nothings’, ‘slackers’ or ‘garbage youth’ — and we have previously featured a portrait of ‘Hong Kong Wastrels’ in China Heritage (see ‘Cockroaches That Would Slay Dragons’, 1 September 2019). The ‘Hong Kong Chavs’ are often contrasted with ‘Useless Old Farts’ 廢老 fèi lǎo — the generation that enjoyed the freedoms, economic prosperity and political apathy afforded by life in the territory during the 1980s and 90s, but who now stand back and criticise the young for being feckless and disruptive. (See, for example, ‘To the Useless Middle-aged and Old Farts of Hong Kong’ 致廢中廢老的香港人（我都係一個香港廢中）, The Stand News, 12 August 2019.)
Criticisms of Young Hong Kong bring to mind a century long tradition in which those in authority dismissed or condemned youthful rebellion and social activism in similar terms. Those who have done so include political power holders, representatives of vested economic interests, friends, or indeed clients, of the powerful, cultural authorities and those who have sought to maintain the status quo, no matter how flawed, corrupt or sclerotic it might be.
In the four decades of the post-Cultural Revolution era, one significant attack on ‘feckless youth’ was made by He Xin (何新, 1949-), an artful Beijing intellectual opportunist. Under the nurturing guidance of Hu Qiaomu 胡喬木, the agèd Party ideologue about whom we have written at length elsewhere (see the China Heritage series ‘Drop Your Pants!’, 8 August-1 October 2018), He Xin published a warning about the dangers of ‘superfluous people’ 多餘的人 in Reading 《讀書》, then China’s leading liberal intellectual journal in late 1985.
In it He Xin denounced a number of younger contemporary writers whom he accused of leading the nation’s youth astray by encouraging them through their writings to ‘cast doubt on, satirise and call for a revolution of basic values, culture, and even life itself’. He Xin’s salvo, one that was part of a new round of ideological warfare that Hu Qiaomu had a hand in planning and directing from 1979, belonged in tone as well as in diction to an ideological lineage that reached back to the 1920s when self-styled progressives derided their fellow young people for their individualism and for resisting the collective plans of a burgeoning, Soviet-influenced Communist Party. In the 1950s, this strain of youthful delinquency was forcefully denounced in terms of a dangerous ‘grey sensibility’ 灰色情緒 that threatened the crimson vigour of the now-dominant Communists. (For more on He Xin, see Barmé and Linda Jaivin, New Ghosts, Old Dreams: China’s Rebel Voices, New York, 1992; and for China’s ‘gray youth culture’ in the past, see Barmé, In the Red, on contemporary Chinese culture, New York 1999.)
We would also observe that, all too often in China’s modern history, youthful idealism, enthusiasm and iconoclastic yearnings have fallen prey to the machinations of canny and ambitious political schemers, opportunists and ideologies. In the year 2019, however, Young Hong Kong is aspiring not to achieve a proffered radical future or some phantasmagorical utopia. They are part of a citywide protest that is agitating for a better, albeit deeply flawed, version of the past, one that can be realised by affirming the positive political and legal underpinnings of a society that has at times promised opportunity and progress. In 2019, their ‘Hong Kong Apostasy’ is in titanic conflict with a Beijing-legislated China Dream, one that is proving to be more about borderless Communist Party dominion than an efflorescence of China as an equitable, decent, fair and modern nation.
Apart from the poster at the beginning of this series of interviews, the other illustrations are from Hong Kong-wide High-school Student Chain Protest of 9 September 2019 which involved students and alumni from some 120 schools. These photographs first appeared in The Stand News 《立場新聞》.
My thanks to Victor Fong 方金平, a graduate scholar who is pursuing work on imperial Chinese history and Hong Kong at The Australian National University, for kindly agreeing to do a draft translation of these interviews. All remaining errors are mine.
— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
9 September 2019
- Holmes Chan, ‘High school students form ‘human chain’ in support of Hong Kong protest movement’, Hong Kong Free Press, 9 September 2019
- Andersen Xia and Bonnie Au, ‘Hong Kong pupils and alumni from over 120 schools form human chains as anti-government protests continue’, South China Morning Post, 9 September 2019 (video report)
On the 12 June 2019 Protest (classified by the Hong Kong authorities as a ‘riot’ 暴亂):
- ‘6.12 再定性．1, 前言：這是一場「暴亂」嗎？’, 《立場新聞》, 2019年6月18日
- ‘6.12 再定性．2, 一場事先張揚的升級行動 衝擊者們：我們目標是進佔立法會’, 《立場新聞》, 2019年6月18日
- ‘6.12 再定性．3, 重組中信圍困噩夢 一群「和理非」如何被警暴所傷’2019年6月20日
- ‘6.12 再定性．4, 陰霾下的 14 歲少女、下班公務員、唱詩基督徒 留守者的惶恐、歉疚與盼望’, 《立場新聞》, 2019年6月22日
A Summer of Blood and Tears
— six high-school students
protesting in Hong Kong
6.9到9.2 — 最漫長之夏
Translated by Victor Fong 方金平
with Geremie R. Barmé
12 June: Siege of the Legislative Council Chambers
Martha, Form Two, fourteen years old
6.12 包圍立法會 Martha 中二（14 歲）
I joined a group of secondary students in a particular [unnamed] district which was set to distribute ribbons [Yellow Ribbons denoting protest] and leaflets in the area… We were all just ordinary people who barely had the guts to do any of that. We’d only known each other for a few weeks, but we had all been tear gassed together. It was a very particular kind of bonding experience.
The 12th of June was the date of my Chinese History exam; the next day was Biology. But my mind wasn’t on any of that. I brought the materials I had to revise for my Bio exam with me when I sat in protest under the bridge at Admiralty Centre. At first, I only cheered on the real protesters from the sidelines as well as giving a hand distributing supplies [to them, including bottled water and food]. Checking the LIHKG feed on my phone I learned that at 3:00pm that afternoon something was going on. We were there for our city, to save our Hong Kong and so my fear just melted away. A little after 3:00 the first tear gas canister was fired in our direction and lots of the protesters were immediately affected. But we had a supply of saline solution and water at the ready so we rushed over and splashed and rinsed the affected people [to lessen the effects of the tear gas plume].
Around 4:00pm, the police fired some really large tear gas bombs and everyone scattered in panic. People were screaming and running for cover, but there was nowhere to hide. There was a cloud of tear gas all around us and since we couldn’t breathe we rushed over to the Admiralty MTR station to take shelter. Even there it was very smoky. It was agony and I couldn’t see as tears ran down my face uncontrollably. My face was on fire with pain.
6 月 12 號考中史，第二日仲要考 Bio，但我冇理到，攞埋 Bio 去溫，坐喺海富天橋底。本身都係叫吓囂，幫手傳送物資咁；睇連登知下午三點有嘢發生，但自己香港梗係自己拯救架啦，就覺得都冇嘢好驚。三點幾，扔咗第一粒催淚彈，好多人中招，我哋就攞住一大堆生理鹽水、水，過去係咁沖、係咁沖。
I think people on the front line that day, on 12 June, were very brave. They took the lead in defending us and really are worthy of our respect.
Up until then, it never occurred to me that Hong Kong People could be so passionate about anything. Generally speaking, you always got the impression that they never seemed even vaguely to care about let alone help each other. You’d never even find a young person giving an old lady in the street a helping hand. But after everything we’ve witnessed I’ve changed my mind. I’ve learned that Hong Kong People can really come together, after all, for two million people to go into the streets to protest was really something. Overall, the pace of life in Hong Kong is just too fast and everyone is absorbed in their own business. You know that expression — ‘Hong Kong Pigs’ — used to describe people here who are simply focussed on themselves. But now we can really say to everyone that simply isn’t the case.
我覺得 6.12 啲人好勇武，去前線擋住佢防線嗰啲，好值得尊重。
There we were distributing leaflets [about the protests and upcoming demonstrations] sweat pouring off us but there were always people cheering us on, giving us encouragement and bringing loads of food and drinks to us. Older people would come over to tell us that we were the real hope of Hong Kong and that they were relying on us. It was very touching.
If I hadn’t got involved I would have never experienced that kind of incredible human warmth.
Until then I only thought about where the best places were to go for a meal or to chill out. Now, I honestly feel that the future of Hong Kong is in the hands of our generation. We simply can’t ignore what’s going on.
如果唔去做呢啲嘢，其實 feel 唔到呢種人情味。
I know from studying history that, to have true democracy you need to have the right to choose your own leader and that everyone should have the same vote. You need to have a fair, open and just system. When the majority of people find that the leader is inadequate they need to have the right to rebel.
我讀歷史知道，要民主，首先要有權選擇自己嘅 leader，每個人都係 equal，可以投票，制度要公平公開公正。當主流民意覺得個 leader 唔適合，我哋有權去 rebel。
I really feel that the situation in China is terrifying. Their legal system is highly problematic; the Communist Party just has too much power. Chinese people have no freedom, no right to choose whether they want Xi Jinping or not. The education system is also highly problematic and the suppression of free speech is very terrible. Living under a system like that people can be kept in the dark and so ignorant that they think the Party is the be-all and end-all. I have no particular liking for China…. In fact, I prefer to call it ‘Zhina’.
[Note: 支那, a term that is thought to have originated with the Sanskrit word चीन, cīna. In the nineteenth century ‘Zhina’, or ‘Shina‘ as it was pronounced in Japanese, was frequently used as a pejorative expression in and by Imperial Japan to denigrate and ‘other’ late-dynastic and Republican-era China. However, during the late-Qing dynasty, ‘Zhina‘ was also used as a common translation of the English word ‘China’. ‘Zhina‘ is now employed by ‘Hong Kong apostates’, along with the words Zhongguo 中國 and ‘The Mainland’ 大陸, when referring to the northern Sinitic realm that is simply ‘not Hong Kong’]
I think Edward Leung [the jailed independence activist who formulated the slogan ‘Restore Hong Kong, Revolution of the Times’] is a hero. In 2016, I was still too young to understand what he was talking about. I only thought it was really bad that he was inciting people to demonstrate and go out on strike all the time. Recently though, I’ve been able to catch up on his speeches by using the LIHKG discussion forum; now I finally appreciate what he was saying, and what he did. I think throughout he was being very reasonable. But I’m also very sad that, for the moment at least, we have lost him [due to imprisonment].
But, when it comes down to it, I don’t think it’s the right time for me to be one of the Brave-Militant Faction [or Bravehearts; that is one of those who engage in violent anti-government actions]. Maybe it’s just that I feel I’m still too young and have too many other considerations. What if I got jailed and ended up with a criminal record? What would my family make of that? Later, when I’ve grown up, and I don’t have all of those concerns I will be on the front line for sure.
21 June: First Siege of Hong Kong Police Headquarters
Mickey, Form Two, fourteen years old
6.21 第一次包圍警總 Mickey 中二（14歲）
Right after I did my last exam of the academic year on 21 June I changed into street clothes and went out.
That day I was right on the front line. I’d noticed from following LIHKG that some young girls, who were around my age, had been front and centre back on 12 June [during the siege of the Legislative Council, mentioned above]. Here I was a young guy; if they could do it did I have the right to be afraid? One girl in particular had posted something on the discussion forum that had really inspired me. So, on the 21st, my friends and I went straight up to the front and, frankly, I found there really wasn’t anything to be afraid of. Someone even offered me a hard hat, but I turned it down. I thought it would just be too hot; anyway, I thought they [the police] wouldn’t dare to attack us.
6.21 我企最前。我上連登睇到有啲女仔同我差唔多大，喺 6.12 企最前，我係一個男仔，咁我驚咩？佢寫咗篇文睇到我好熱血，跟住嗰日就同啲 friend 企最前。不過我發覺其實都冇乜好驚，啲人畀頭盔我，我冇要，覺得好焗，佢都唔夠膽打我哋架啦。
Way back on the 9th of June, I hadn’t really understood the significance of what was going on. Then I saw the news: incredible!, there were a million people demonstrating in the streets. From then on I was following the action and then, on 12 June, a buddy of mine called me from Admiralty. By the time I arrived, the police were already mopping things up. Still, the minute I came up from the subway station I could smell it; I could taste it, too. Right there at Admiralty Centre, I saw someone with a bloody leg lying on the ground. Then a canister of tear gas landed right next to us, right there at the entrance of the shopping mall. Right away my face started stinging and my throat was on fire, too. I only managed to get back down to the subway because I kept my eyes shut.
I don’t think they were right to open fire on the protesters, especially since they weren’t any really danger; it’s not as though they were threatening anyone’s life. At most they only chucked some steel pipes in the direction of the police, no way anyone would have been hit.
So the reaction of the police really shocked me. I’d never been in a protest before, or seen that many people gathered like that. I felt they were all there in an attempt to do something for Hong Kong. I hoped to make my own contribution as well.
Actually, I’d wanted to be a policeman ever since I was a kid. But, after 12 June, I’ve been thinking to myself: what’s the good of being in the police?
6 月 9 號我仲未清楚件事，但睇新聞見到，嘩，一百萬人上街，先開始關心。6.12 我有 friend 喺金鐘，叫我出去，我到嗰邊已經清緊場，一行出地鐵站就聞到陣味，喺海富中心見到有人瞓咗喺度，隻腳流晒血。商場門口，有個催淚彈掟中我哋附近，塊面好痛、喉嚨好似俾火燒咁，要合埋眼行落地鐵站。
其實我由細到大都想做警察，但 6.12 之後，我諗緊，做警察有咩用？
I was born on the Mainland and we moved here when I was three years old. So I’ve done all my studies here — primary school and now high school. Regardless, my mother never tires of reminding me ‘be grateful for where you came from’. Our school text books tell us how strong and great China is: like its impressive GDP; its major national achievements; its magnificent history; and how modern China has really taken off. I used to think China was really amazing, what with its excellent economy and that it was a global power now.
我喺大陸出世，三歲落嚟香港，小學、中學都係香港讀；阿媽成日都提，要飲水思源。香港啲課本有講中國點勁點勁，話咩 GDP 嗰啲，國家有咩壯舉，講中國嘅歷史好勁，近代又有咩發展，細個覺得中國好勁，經濟好好，世界強國。
We live in Sheung Shui and I was really pissed off that people called us ‘Mainland Locusts’ [a local term of abuse for people from the Mainland are regarded as having moved to Hong Kong to take advantage of the various opportunities, and freedoms, of the territory]. Of course, it really cut me up to be called a ‘Locust’ and I knew that if I told my buddies that I was born on the Mainland, they’d take the piss and call me a ‘Mainland Jerk’. I’m not like everyone else who was born here in Hong Kong. I do regard myself as being Chinese. So, when it comes to the protests, I have mixed feelings. But as the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement really got going, I really didn’t think much of how the Chinese government was handling it. One Country Two Systems is supposedly set in concrete, but it was clear that if this bill was passed, part of the One Country Two Systems would disappear. That’s really unfair, to Hong Kong, I mean.
我住上水。嗰時覺得鬧我哋蝗蟲啲人好衰，畀人鬧蝗蟲，感受梗係唔好。話畀 friend 知我大陸出世，佢哋會笑我「大陸哩」。我同香港出世嘅人有啲唔同，覺得自己係中國人，但係喺呢件事上好矛盾。反送中出現，我覺得中國政府唔係咁好，明明 set 定咗一國兩制，但只要通過呢條條例，一國兩制就會冇咗一部份，好唔公平啊對香港。
After 12 June, my mum told me, ‘Give it a rest now. If you don’t get involved in all of that they won’t catch you or send you back to the Mainland for having broken the law.’ She said I shouldn’t go to any more demonstrations. I read online that if you come back to Hong Kong after you broke the law on the Mainland, they’d send you back to be tried. That might sound reasonable enough in theory, but who trusts the legal system of the Mainland? Everything’s so corrupt. But I didn’t want to argue with my mum, though I thought to myself that although they are telling us that you’d only be extradited to the Mainland if you broke the law now, but in the future who knows: they could use any random excuse to nab you and drag you off to the Mainland.
I use both WeChat and Tiktok, but I’ve read things online that claim if you say anything against China on Tiktok, or like anything even only slightly radical you might get dragged off there. I just don’t know if that’s true or not.
My mum keeps reminding me: ‘You were born on the Mainland and you’re Chinese’. And I’ve read online comments by Mainlanders [about the protests] where people generally call us ‘rioters’ who should be shot and killed by the police. How come I don’t think like that?
Although I wasn’t born here in Hong Kong, I’ve grown up here for over a decade now and I think of myself as a Hongkonger. So, I go out to protest, too. We Hongkongers are all very united; you can really feel it during the protests. After this has all passed, people will feel much closer to each other. Then, at least, I’ll know that I also participated in the movement.
Hong Kong needs to maintain an independent and fair judicial system. I think the legal system here is good and it should maintain balance and fairness; Hong Kong should remain free. This is a major difference between Hong Kong and the Mainland.
雖然我未必係喺香港出世，但我喺香港生長咗十年，覺得自己算係一個香港人，所以我都會照樣出去。香港人好團結，去到現場真係會 feel 到。我諗，香港經歷咗呢件事之後，大家關係更加親密，香港人同香港人之間。起碼，我都有參與其中。
香港要有司法公義，要有獨立機制，我覺得香港嘅法律係好嘅。香港應該 keep 住公平，keep 住自由，呢個就係香港同大陸嘅分別。
I caught sight of Joshua Wong on the day [we were demonstrating] at Police Headquarters. He was one of those people who was promoting real universal suffrage years ago. I now know he was doing that for Hong Kong.
Edward Leung? Wasn’t he the guy in a blue shirt who said something he wasn’t supposed to when he was taking the oath [as a represented elected to the Legislative Council]?
14 July: Sha Tin Protest
Danny, Form Six, eighteen years old
7.14 沙田區遊行 Danny 中六（18歲）
I started getting involved from 12 June, and I’ve kept coming out. So, by now, I pretty much know what to do. Actually, we rarely have any disagreements up on the front lines. Most of the people there are pretty clear about what to do depending on the circumstances. Since those who are further aren’t really clear about what’s happening where we are, it’s easy for them to take fright and wrangle over if and when they should beat a retreat.
I’ve had my hand in helping pry bricks loose. Some say that we’re launching attacks on the police but once you’ve taken the decision that you are defending your lines and occupying territory then you resort to using bricks, too. When we started out we had absolutely nothing at hand but there are the police with their batons, tear gas and pepper spray. What’s a brick or two gonna do against all of that? And the riot police have their big shields and their strengthened helmets. A volley of bricks isn’t going to give them much grief.
Since even throwing a bottle of water constitutes an assault on the constabulary, what’s the difference between hurling a water bottle or a brick? Anyway, it’s often easier to come across bricks and they give the police a real fright, so it’s best to have a couple of strings in your bow. Gradually, normal Hongkongers have also come to regard this as acceptable.
There’s a huge disparity in relative strength between the police and the protestors. They have their batons, their water cannons, pepper spray, rubber bullets, beanbag rounds. All we have is umbrellas, not even iron pipes. By the way, where did all those pipes come from? The only way we can hold the police off for a while is by hurling bricks. Of course, I wouldn’t rule out the fact that some people throw them in desperation and anger; but more often than not it’s to defend our front line. We only tend to chuck them when you’re pressing down on us and may do us some real harm.
I really think street demonstrations are useless. The government just ignores you, and that’s why I tend to favour more radical action. We’re all out there because of the justice of the issues. Even if we seem only to be provoking the police, demanding the government respond, or to protect our people, we’re really there to oppose the Extradition Bill and for the sake of our Five Major Demands. Regardless, no matter what’s going on, before you get involved you need to be absolutely clear about what you are capable of and how you can go about doing it.
One reason I’m involved this time around is that I didn’t do anything back in 2014. At that time, I only thought that it was a great lark to boycott school. My thinking was very childish. This time, though I’ve seen so many people my age or younger getting involved and it made me think, how can I look at myself in the mirror if I don’t go out into the streets?
出嚟其中一個原因，係因為 2014 年嗰陣我冇出到嚟。嗰時只覺得罷課好玩，好幼稚，今次見到咁多同我同年、甚至細過我嘅人，覺得，我唔出嚟仲係人嚟嘅？
From back when they demolished the [much-loved landmark] Star Ferry Terminal at Central [in 2006-2007, something widely opposed by civil groups] it was obvious that the ChiComs were stepping up their encroachment on Hong Kong. The Legislative Council [that governs the territory] is simply not a democratic or representative body. They gave up our waterfront long before the formal vote. To all intents and purposes, the Hong Kong government has abandoned us Hongkongers. They do whatever the ChiComs tell them; then they go and enjoy themselves over on the Mainland.
Originally, I had a summer job but I quit. If this hadn’t come up I would’ve spent the summer doing my job and living a normal life. After school I just planned to get a job and live like an ordinary Hongkonger. I’d never have learned all this stuff. By getting involved in the protests I’ve really learned a lot about myself. I’ve realised that I’m not one of those people who follows blindly: I can’t be made to go, retreat, lash out or take a stand without thinking. I guess I weigh things up more than a lot of people.
I’ve just about cut off contact with all my old classmates. One reason is that a lot of them have parents in the police force. But the main reason is that they simply don’t give a damn about what’s going on. Some just focus on the jobs they have; others are having a good time in China. One by one I’ve unfollowed them [be it on Facebook or Instagram]… One friend even asked me: ‘How come you have all the leisure time to get involved [in the protests]?’ That made me think to myself: what the fuck have you done — nothing! What, you think I’m just doing this for fun? It just made me want to cut them out of my life even more. I was in this online group [probably on WhatsApp or Telegram] and I got into this fight with everyone and they booted me out.
我同所有同學基本上係斷絕關係，一嚟好多警察嘅仔女，二嚟佢哋真係完全唔關心件事，返工嘅返工，返大陸玩嘅返大陸玩，我就逐個逐個 unfollow……有朋友話我「乜你咁得閒出去做呢啲？」我心諗，你自己唔撚做，講到我無嘢做出嚟玩咁，令我更加唔想同佢哋有任何關係。我喺班 group 同佢哋拗交，佢哋扔咗我出去。
It’s pretty obvious that the government is digging in for a prolonged war of resistance. I don’t think Hongkongers are going to give up that easily or just submit to being suppressed. I’m up for it: I’ll be in the game for as long as the authorities want to play.
Early August: various actions in local districts
Rory, Form Three, fifteen years old
8 月初 地區行動 Rory 中三（15歲）
I would have never imagined that, over the past couple of months, I would turn from being a member of the ‘Peaceful-Rational Group’ into being a ‘Brave-Militant’ [who engages in violent protest]…. You see, I’m neither particularly brave nor am I that militant, but I’m willing to stand on the front line to lend a hand. The thing about being ‘brave and militant’ is not just about throwing bricks at the police, or attacking aggressively; it’s also about being there to protect other people. Those of us who have gear and equipment, should protect the people without it.
(On the day when I was arrested), I was at the intersection of XXX road. The Raptors [Special Tactical Squad] were hiding behind the long riot shields of the normal police and, when the police retreated the Raptors showed their hand by striking out. People ran in confusion the moment they saw the Raptors and I caught sight of two people at the back who had no [protective] ‘gear’ at all; it was like they were frozen. At the moment some of those on the front line had retreated to other positions and only a small contingent with ‘gear’ was still out there. I moved to grab those stunned protesters and that’s when I was knocked over by the Raptors. Now I was stunned and all I could think, fucking hell: so my time has come.
（被捕當日）喺 XX 路口，警察長盾遮住，後面有班速龍，長盾退開班速龍跑出嚟，啲人一見到速龍就亂、散，我見到後面仲有兩個人未走，冇 gear 咩都冇，唔知係嚇呆咗定點。當時前線有部份人轉咗場，有 gear 嘅兵力好少。 我見嗰兩條友仲唔走咪衝上去扯佢走，扯完走嗰時，就畀速龍㩒低咗。嗰下呆咗，心入面講咗句，頂，終於到我。
There was another guy in the cop car and they asked him his name. When he mumbled a response the pig yelled at him. Then the protester answered back, so the cop dragged him to the back and beat him up. After pummeling him for a few minutes two of them — one policeman in riot gear and another in plain clothes — just jumped on him. The guy in riot gear was the one who had me. They grabbed the protester by the hair and just slammed his head down. As they did my cop looked over at me and said: ‘What you looking at? Keep it up and I’ll bash you too.’ He ordered me to bow my head down.
上車後有個人，阿 sir 問佢叫咩名，佢講得好細聲，個阿 sir 鬧佢，條友駁咀，就畀人扯咗去後面打。打咗一兩分鐘，圍毆，一個防暴一個便衣。嗰個防暴就係看住我嗰個，直接扯嗰條友嘅頭髮，一嘢撻去後面。我哋望咗幾秒，有個阿 sir 話，望咩？再望打埋你，叫我哋耷低頭。
Three cops came over to question me at the police station, I guess it was because I was so young, so they sort of chatted with me. After a while they said I seemed like a good kid and they asked why I’d got myself involved in the protests? They asked me so many things and I responded.
They charged me and now I’m back home on bail. I know they’ll keep me if they nab me again, but going out on the streets is still better than sitting at home doing nothing.
My ‘gear’ — goggles, face mask [literally ‘pig’s snout’], shield and elbow guards cost me over than HK$2000. It was all the money my family gave me for my meals; I used the lot. I made the wooden shield myself at a skateboard shop out of an old skateboard. You can see the corner was broken off by being hit by a police baton. The first time (I was on the frontline) was back in June; I joined the umbrella brigade [that formed a protective phalanx of umbrella shields]. The second time was to spray paint. The third time I used my shield on the front line. The fourth time… they caught me.
In mid-July, a friend of mine was arrested and beaten up really badly in the police station. I was so furious that I told him I would take revenge on his behalf, only the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet. Although the police are absolute pricks and really have it coming to them, for the moment I don’t want to hurt anyone, yet. I’ll exact revenge at a strategic moment when it’s necessary.
The only police I really hate are the ones who abuse their power. Once I saw them knock a young woman over for no reason whatsoever. At the time, I really wanted to fight back, but I restrained myself, though it was incredibly hard to do so. Then someone else came along and knocked the policeman over and took the young woman to safety. I told myself, ‘If I’d acted thoughtlessly I could have really fucked things up.’
七月中，我有個 friend 俾人拉，喺警署畀人打，打得好甘，之後我勁嬲，就同佢講會幫佢報仇，不過到而家都報唔到。雖然啲警察係仆街、抵死，但暫時都唔想傷害佢哋住，未去到一個戰略上需要郁手嘅位，就唔郁住。
An independent commission of inquiry is absolutely essential so that the rotten cops can be dealt with. As for the withdrawal of the Extradition Bill, if they refuse to do that, we can bog them down in action again. As for Carrie Lam stepping down, I really don’t care either way. Who’s to say her replacement won’t be even worse? I also don’t care all that much about real universal suffrage. All I want to do is help the people out there on the front line. You know, to help save them or whatever. I don’t want to see them suffer. (Those [five] demands) actually aren’t that important to me. What matters is for me to help other protesters.
I’ve gradually become more positive in my outlook. Previously, I was always talking about death and saying that I really just want to die. Then I met this old man who lectured at me for four hours solid — you know, old men are long-winded. It was at Lung Wo Road. He said me, it was easy to die, what was important that you died for something meaningful.
Hong Kong is my home; if you don’t give it your all, who will? We were born here in Hong Kong, where else is there to go? I’ll do my best to stay alive; I won’t hand it over to them that easily.
Even though I’m really exhausted, I just have to keep going. Ugh, I don’t want to go back to school.
18 August: 1.7 million people participate in a protest organised by the Civil Human Rights Front
Clara, Form Two, fourteen years old
8.18 民陣 170 萬人遊行 Clara 中二（14歲）
I was so naïve back in June. I thought that, with us out in the streets en masse like that, surely the government would have to back down. Then, when I got back home, I heard the announcement that they wouldn’t budge. I was glued to the TV for the rest of the night, watching scenes of people being beaten up by the police.
The only reason I joined the 12 June mass protest was to stop their Extradition Bill. But then, somehow, I ended up marching on the frontline. When a group of demonstrators stormed the LegCo building the police started firing tear gas. I’d never experienced anything like it and couldn’t help breathing it in. I went in to the Citic Tower to find a place to wash my eyes… My heart died that night; I lost all hope.
We all accepted the image that the police are there to help and protect people, but there they were gassing everyone. After 12 June 12, I barely slept a wink for a couple of weeks. All those scenes just kept flashing through my mind. I thought about what was happening in Hong Kong and what it meant obsessively. From that day on, I decided that it was useless to support ‘Peaceful-Irrational-Non-Violent’ protest.
I’m outraged when I see the police done up in ‘full gear’, helmets on and ready to do battle: they’re decked out in equipment bought with money from Hong Kong taxpayers! Do they really need all of that stuff? Our motives are so simple; our aim so modest. We’re only out in the streets to agitate for the Five Great Demands. Is it really necessary to turn it into such a major stand off?
I’ve really come to hate the police.
當我望住佢哋 full gear，戴晒頭盔準備打交咁，香港市民畀錢交稅畀你買身上面嗰套裝備，其實佢哋係咪真係有必要搞到咁？我哋單純出嚟爭取五大訴求，其實係咪真係有必要對峙到咁？
The Hong Kong I love has fundamentally changed. Or, maybe it was always really like this. The government acts as though it’s in an unassailable position and it deploys the police force as an instrument of their political will. The response of both the authorities and the police to citizens taking to the streets to protest is incredibly disappointing. This is not the Hong Kong that I thought I knew.
If all of this hadn’t happened I would have happily go on playing my computer games as usual; I’d ‘be a chav’ and just hang out on the streets all summer. But, this is about the future, what can I say? Before this, I haven’t have any special plans, but this summer at least I have a target to focus on.
(In the future) who knows whether I should be going to school. Sooner or later you’ve got to do something else.
I’m fourteen and if I get arrested and sent to a juvenile home or whatnot, I have no idea what might happen to me. I can’t see a path to the future; the only thing I can really do…. Well, one way or another, you need to think about your future. And you simply can’t imagine what might happen in there.
It’d be better to sacrifice myself than let them arrest me.
我而家 14 歲，咁你畀人拉咗，入咗女童院、或唔知會入乜嘢，你唔知自己會發生咩事架喎，亦望唔到自己前途，唯一可以做嘅就係……咁你要諗你嘅未來架嘛。同埋你唔會想像到入咗去會發生咩事。
2 September 2019: First Day of the Academic Year
‘Little Number Seven’, Form 6, sixteen years old
9.2 開學日 七號仔 中六（16歲）
The first demonstration I participated in was on 6 June. I really remember it clearly because of what my Liberal Studies teacher at school said. It was around the time of the media beat-up about Andy Hui’s affair [when local media gleefully exposed details about the singer cheating on his wife] and when the protests about the Extradition Bill were happening. My teacher said, ‘We’re obsessed with his private life, but we don’t care about something happening right now in Hong Kong that touches on all of us.’ That got me thinking: why was I so fixated on all that trivia? I remember I walked for five hours that day. Honestly, I didn’t think all that much apart from wondering how come there were so many people participating. After that, there was the time I sat in front of the LegCo building for a while, but I left early ’cause I had an exam the next day.
6.9 係我第一次參與遊行。好記得學校的 LS 老師，當時撞正許志安偷食，又有逃犯條例。佢就話，我哋係咁管人家事，但連殺到自己身邊、香港嘅事都唔理。我先開始反省，點解我淨係理一啲閒事呢？我記得嗰日行咗 5 個鐘，感受唔係好大，純粹覺得，點解咁迫嘅條街？行完喺立法會門口坐咗一陣，第二日要考試，所以早走。
It was different on 12 June [the day of the exam]. Some of my classmates went out to demonstrate at 8:00am and didn’t even take the exam. Although I wore my uniform to school, I had a black T-shirt inside and another pair of pants in my bag. I planned to take part in the demo right after my exam. Of course, I was anxious about the exam, but I was far more worried about my classmates in Admiralty. I thought anything could happen. Although I’d scored 75 marks in the final test for that subject, I only got 40 in the exam itself, barely a pass.
6.12 就好唔同。嗰日有啲同學連試都唔考，朝早八點就去。我著校服返學，但其實入面已經換咗黑色衫，書包擺咗條褲，考完試就即刻去。當然對住份卷都好驚，但更加驚佢哋喺金鐘唔知發生咩事。嗰科我統測時攞 75 分，考試時得 40 幾分，勉強合格。
At first, I tended to be more of the ‘Peaceful-Rational-Non-Violent’ kind of demonstrator but gradually, after 1 July [when protesters broke into the LegCo building], I moved forward to the front line. On 30 June, I heard two or three Warriors had killed themselves and I just wept. My family asked me why I was so upset, but I didn’t know how to answer them. After dinner I just had to get out and the major motivation for me getting out into the streets was that I simply couldn’t accept what had happened. That university students who were only twenty-three years old had actually killed themselves. How could I stay sitting at home in air conditioned comfort? I just couldn’t.
After that, I started taking up a position centre-forward at demonstrations to help extinguish tear gas canisters [fired at demonstrators by the police]. During a demo at Sheung Wan on 21 July I really felt the full impact of it. It was incredibly painful; even my arms and legs, which were covered by my clothes, really hurt, as well as my neck. It was the first time I’d got a full-on taste of it; but, gradually, I got used to it.
At Tsim Sha Tsui on 3 August, my gear wasn’t really up to the task. My face mask only had a 6006 [acid gas cartridge in the filter] and I ended up with a stomach ache for a week. That day, I had to take frequent rest when I was walking. It was real tough and I even had to go see the volunteer doctor. But I took the medicine he gave me and went straight back out into the streets. I forced myself to suck up the pain. Now when I come out, I use a 7502 half-face mask with a strong 60926 filter. That allows me to get much closer to the front of the action.
之後開始企中前排滅煙。7.21 喺上環中哂，乸到一個地步，著咗長褲手腳都痛，頸位好痛好痛，第一次試到呢種感受。但痛痛下，就慣。8.3 在尖沙咀，裝備唔係好得，淨係用 6006，之後肚痛咗成個禮拜，行街都要停喺度抖，好辛苦。要睇義務醫生，食完藥，都係照出去啦，夾硬死頂啫。而家出去會用 half mask，7502，同埋 filter，60926，可以行得前啲。
Another thing that’s kept me occupied this summer is organising school boycotts with my classmates. We discussed it with our principal and said we wanted to have a rally in the open-air playground, but he didn’t think it was safe since he was worried about people in the nearby buildings throwing things at us. So we proposed using the covered playground instead, but he refused that as well. Since the neighbours could see what was happening in the school I thought he was mostly worried about us being seen. The only venue left was our enclosed assembly hall but even then he forbid us from taking pictures or doing anything like holding up slogans or posters. You’re engaged and want to do something about what’s going on. Fuck him!
But on [2 September] the first day of the new year, I couldn’t hold myself back anymore. I suggested to my classmates that we first meet at the local MTR station so we could go to school in ‘full gear’ as a group. We encountered some police on the way and I shouted out at them a couple of times. One cop who was in white shirt was furious and shouted, ‘Stand right where you are!’ and he frisked me. I demanded to see his ID but he refused. During the search he manhandled me and it was seen by one of the locals who called the school. When I got to school the class monitor asked me how come I’d gone from being so meek and mild to being so wild and angry?
I admitted I was pretty impulsive and I didn’t give much thought to the consequences of my actions, so I felt a little guilty after that. But you know the way the police are acting these days is outrageous. I was in my school uniform. Do they now have the right to interrogate and search anyone wearing a school uniform? Though I was worried that my actions might get my classmates into trouble as well.
但開學嗰日，我都忍唔住。本身約好同學喺地鐵站等，一齊著 full gear 返學。行行吓見到警察，我鬧咗兩次。有個白衫警員好激動咁話，「你企喺度！」要查我。我叫佢出示委任證，佢無，搜身時又用手肘㩒住我頸落少少的位置。有街坊見到，打咗去學校。事後班主任問我，你以前好冷靜架，點解近排好似短咗路呢？
Frankly speaking, I’ve completely got out of the habit of going to school. I’ve spent the whole summer vacation out on the streets protesting. I’ve been dressed all in black [the ‘uniform’ of protesters] for so long that I completely forgot where I’d stashed my school uniform at home. The 2nd of September was coming up and I searched around for ages until I found it. The leather shoes I had all last semester were completely worn out and I needed a new pair but I never got around it. Then there’s my school work — I haven’t touched that for ages. Now the new year has started; who knows how I’ll cope.
There are only twenty-eight weeks left until the DSE [Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, used as a university entrance exam] and I’m freaked out. I want to go to uni and originally all of us were going to be preparing for the exams over the summer but we couldn’t do anything about it: we didn’t have the time. In the days ahead, since there’s nothing for it, I might as well keep on protesting.
Yeah, of course I know it’s a crisis. But when I compare my future to that of Hong Kong which is more important?
其實我極度唔習慣開學。因為呢兩個月嘅暑假，真係抗爭得太長。之前出街全部都係 black bloc，我將套衫放喺屋企一個位置。9.2 開學，諗住搵校服，搵咗好耐都搵唔到。我對皮鞋，上年下學期開始已經爛爛地，本來話暑假換，但都未換。仲有，其實我功課基本上無掂過，咁樣開咗學喇。我都唔知點算。
仲有 28 個禮拜就要考DSE，我自己都好緊張，我想入大學的。成班朋友都想趁中五呢個暑假發力追。但係真係救唔到，無呢個時間。嚟緊嘅日子，既然都無得救，不如都係繼續抗爭啦。
- Text: ‘6.9 到 9.2 最漫長之夏 香港中學生怎樣走過血淚交織的暑假?’,《立場新聞》, 2019年9月3日; and,
- Photographs, ‘無負少年時 萬千學子人鏈發聲（感謝讀者們提供大量相片）’, 2019年9月9日