I am Brian Leung: they cannot understand; they cannot comprehend; they cannot see

Hong Kong Apostasy


Brian Leung Kai Ping (梁繼平, 1994-) is a graduate scholar who has been called ‘the face of protest in Hong Kong’. He was involved in the siege and assault on the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) on 1 July 2019. He was the only protester to remove his mask and reveal his identity. It was an act aimed at urging the occupiers to continue their demonstration in the LegCo chamber. It was also a brave gesture of solidarity with a group of protesters whose actions amounted to a declaration that for the Anti-Extradition Bill Protest Movement of 2019 there was ‘no return’ and no simple de-escalation of the conflict with the Hong Kong-Beijing authorities. It was also a defiant move undertaken in the full knowledge that ‘rioting’ carried a potential ten-year gaol sentence.

Following the incident, Brian Leung travelled to Taiwan and then on to the United States where he has been undertaking doctoral research in the Political Science Department of Washington University. On 16 August, he gave a speech via video link as part of the ‘Stand with Hong Kong, Power to the People Rally’ at an event co-organised by Hong Kong IIAD — Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation 香港大專學界國際事務代表團. His speech was carried by Stand News 立場新聞, an independent, free, online news outlet, on 17 August. Below we reprint the English text of Brian Leung’s speech, with minor editorial changes, followed by the Chinese text. A link to the original video recording is provided in ‘Related Material’.

This is the latest chapter in ‘Hong Kong Apostasy’, a series devoted to the 2019 Anti-Extradition Bill Protest Movement. For more in this series, see ‘The Best China’ section of China Heritage.

— Geremie R.Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
20 August 2019


Related Material:


They Cannot Understand,
They Cannot Comprehend,
They Cannot See

They cannot understand why young people would exchange their wellbeing for the better tomorrow of this city. They cannot comprehend the tremendous power of self-organization and spontaneity embedded within a free society. They cannot see ideals and dignity in humanity but only the pursuit of material interests and lust for power.

— Brian Leung 梁繼平


Source: Stand News 立場新聞, 17 August 2019

I am Brian Leung,

One of the protestors who
stormed LegCo on the 1st of July



Brian Leung



I am Brian Leung, one of the many protestors who stormed LegCo on the 1st of July.

I would like to thank the organising committee for making this event possible, and for allowing me to deliver a short speech. Please forgive me for not being able to join forces with you all at the frontline, for now. But I do want to share my thoughts with you all.

A Community Forged by Empathy

In early June, I was still in America, focusing on my studies. When the Anti-Extradition Law Movement broke out — hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets, tear gas being fired everywhere, and the police opening fire on the protestors, I was constantly looking at my phone or my computer for news updates. I saw young people of sixteen or seventeen being chased and beaten up by the police amid the clouds of teargas. Imagining their trembling in fear and anxiety, and thinking of the worry-free days they would otherwise have had, I was tearful and desperately looking for the moment to go back to Hong Kong.

When I finally got back to Hong Kong, I felt, on the one hand, excited; on the other hand, I experienced a deep sense of grief, one caused by the loss of several activists who sacrificed their lives to protest against the government. This grief burst forth in the most dramatic and unprecedented manner on the 1st of July.

On that day, outside the Legislative Council chambers, I witnessed the protestors who were relentlessly trying to break the glass doors at the entrance of the building. Having experienced the divisions in civil society during the Umbrella Movement [when ‘Peaceful’ and ‘Valiant’ or more militant protesters split over tactics], I was surprised by how united everyone was on the site. Although other protestors did look worried, they continued to show their support for those at the frontline.

I think the main reason for such unity has come about because other protestors can stand in the shoes of those who chose to escalate their actions even if it is not totally agreed. How other protestors can share their pain and desperation as a result of the common experience of injustice, abusive arrest, and martyrdom. As for everything happening inside the chamber that night, I don’t think any more explanation is necessary.

Uncertainty surely abounds when it comes to my personal future. But just as many other even braver Hongkongers, I would still put the movement over my safety.

Many close friends let me know later on that they simply can’t imagine the amount of distress I have to go through. However, I can’t help but think that our situations are not all that different. When we choose to side with the movement and become a protestor, we inevitably become an exile, alienated, abandoned by our city. Every protestor carries their respective burden — misunderstanding from family members, distancing by friends, or bitter accusations from pro-Beijing supporters.

We may live under the same sky, but we are as if miles apart. A city that was once familiar and dear to us, has overnight become barely recognisable. Distance does create its own sense of alienation, but, sometimes, there is nothing more alienating or that makes us feel more like a stranger than being right in the middle of the city. So, you could probably imagine what we are all going through.

I think this is what it means to call ourselves a community, that we are able to imagine others’ suffering, and willing to shoulder one another’s burdens.

A slogan in the movement says it all:

“I am taking the bullet for you; would you go on strike for me?”

In reality, neither anyone has the obligation to take any bullet, nor anyone has to go on strike for any other. But only when everyone’s suffering is our own, and when every sacrifice is for us all, would a community emerge. We honour their sacrifice, recognizing and passing on their spirit in every protest.

In essence, the identity of “Hongkonger” exists nowhere else but in our minds. And we reconstitute and strengthen this identity through our every struggle and daily practices. We take them as close as our own hands and feet, even if we have never seen their true likenesses; we take them as our kin even if we are never related to them in blood. Every sacrifice they made — their blood, freedom, or even lives — are here to nurture this community of suffering.

As long as we keep on shouldering each other’s suffering and having their sacrifice at heart, Hongkongers shall persist as a community, however much we stretch the boundaries of space and time. The fact that tens of thousands of overseas Hongkongers have demonstrated their support to the movement proves my point.

A Regime Crippled by Violence

In contrast, we are facing a regime of sheer violence and one that is deficient in imagination: They cannot understand why young people would exchange their wellbeing for the better tomorrow of this city. They cannot comprehend the tremendous power of self-organization and spontaneity embedded within a free society. They cannot see ideals and dignity in humanity but only the pursuit of material interests and lust for power.

The only thing they can hold on to is sheer violence and brutality. They have unleashed the beast within the police force to arbitrarily suppress protesters, pamper triads’ violence, and even threaten people with armed forces, proving that the government simply continues its brutal nature in the name of legitimacy.

In this movement, valiant protestors are recognised and proved indispensable. However, in the long run, we also need to outsmart this regime of nothing more than brutality by strategies of greater imagination, creativity, and wisdom. We have come up with a plethora of tactics, including occupation of streets and the Legislative Council, district-based gatherings, gatherings by professionals, gatherings at the airport, general strike, Lennon Walls, and international publicity campaigns.

An important lesson is that social forces are intricately interconnected as networks. Each node of social force brings about new possibilities of further mobilization and new challenges to the regime. Excellent examples include the civil servants as well as the transportation sector based on the MTR or the aviation industry. Therefore, we must uncover more openings of the authority within our city and further our organization and mobilization.

By the same token, Hong Kong is also embedded within the broader networks of not only China but also the world. As such, we have to analyse both our internal and external circumstances and formulate the unique position of Hong Kong. Finding new points of leverage on the international front is of utmost importance to furthering our movement.

Building International Alliances

In my experiences of studying abroad, my imagination is broadened by what it means to build international alliances. In France, I understood the history of many diasporic communities in Europe and the Americas, which continued their battles even after they had emigrated to foreign countries. They safeguarded and advanced their homelands’ interests by actively building overseas organizations, mobilisation, and lobbying. In the US, I met many Taiwanese and Tibetan Americans who have devoted their lives in building organizations and networks and lobbying efforts. I was extremely impressed by the level of commitment demonstrated by their young leaders of new generation into various organizing efforts and movements.

In short, building international alliances never necessarily comes into conflict with their local identities, but often helps foster the political development in their respective countries.

The international community is enormous in offering a lot of valuable lessons for Hongkongers. But it is exactly due to the size of this community that we lag so much behind other nations in terms of our efforts in building stronger connections. These include explaining and contextualizing our situation to international media and institutions, organising and mobilising overseas Hongkongers, building networks with various NGOs and INGOs, and lobbying for any legislation or acts protecting Hong Kong’s democracy, human rights and freedom.

Furthermore, the fifty-year promise of “One Country, Two Systems” expires in 2047. We must elevate the Hong Kong issues to an international level as soon as possible.

This gathering is thus an excellent starting point in fostering the implementation of the “Sino-British Joint Declaration” on the part of the UK, and the legislation of the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” on the part of the US, and hopefully more countries in the future.

On one hand, the frequent financial interactions between China and the world have benefited tremendously from the fact that Hong Kong is a separate customs territory and China’s offshore financial centre. This special status is, and should be, dependent upon Hong Kong’s institutional distinctiveness from the Chinese system in terms of our autonomy and our protection of freedoms.

On the other hand, many democracies in the world have been sliding into authoritarianism, while people have lost faith and optimism in the ideals of freedom and democracy. At this moment, the energy, resilience, and aspiration for democracy and freedom as demonstrated by Hong Kong’s civil society represent a valuable source of inspiration and can contribute to many troubled democracies and civil societies.

Situating Hong Kong in the overlapping international network to formulate strategies is a key step in strengthening and safeguarding Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom in the long run.


The whole anti-extradition law movement has forced the regime to unveil its true facade — one that is so rotten to its core. There is no way for us to submit ourselves again to the past rotten order rooted in lies and injustice. However absurd the reality might be, this is our stepping stone to a brighter future: we shoulder each other’s suffering; we take off the mask of peace, rationality and justice to reveal this brutal regime; we build more extensive and stronger international alliance.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.”

Just as we would’ve never imagined this movement to rebirth out of the ashes of the Umbrella Movement, our hope for justice and freedom will never come to an end. This flame will set ablaze one day. Our protest will eventually succeed.

I will keep fighting shoulder to shoulder with you and all Hongkongers.