Oct 20 Protests: Photos and Anecdotes
November 8, 2019
I watched from behind the sea of reporters aiming their cameras at the Tsim Sha Tsui police station as a young protester urinated at the gate. Police issued a warning via loudspeaker for the man to stop immediately. He responded by giving them the middle finger. A man, who had been spray-painting the police sign, ran back into the police station as the first round of tear gas was fired into a crowd of peaceful protesters.
After a few rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets from the station, some protesters hurled petrol bombs at the gates. They were promptly doused by a policeman with a hose. I walked towards the residential areas as I tried to shake off the tear gas’s sting radiating around my eyes. I was greeted by a scene of residents flooding from their buildings screaming verbal abuse at the police. As the police water cannon truck advanced at the head of the police formation, spraying stinging blue water as it accelerated, civilians on the sidewalks screamed.
(Water cannon truck shoots stinging blue water to disperse crowds of protesters.)
I barely escaped being sprayed by the truck by mere inches, but the reporter beside me wasn’t so lucky as he was sprayed with a torrent of the stinging liquid. As I sprinted down the winding alleyways of Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei, not knowing how far behind the riot police were, store owners were passing out free water bottles to everyone running, people chanted slogans from their houses, and people in restaurants held up signs in support.
(Protesters take a break as tear gas stops firing)
Recently, protesters have begun to target pro-China stores and the MTR, vandalising, but not looting the stores. There are still many who wonder why the movement has so much momentum and support after five months of protests, despite all the damage done by protesters. The answer, however, isn’t as simple as black and white.
When the largely unpopular extradition bill was proposed early this year, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest over the course of two weeks, which led to the suspension of the bill, and eventual withdrawal on October 23rd.
But the conflict won’t end there. To many Hong Kongers, the focus of the protests has already shifted away from the bill to alleged police brutality as well as demands for universal suffrage. After triads attacked protesters and civilians alike on July 21st, many accused the police of colluding with the gangsters citing footage of officers simply walking away, an officer thanking the men for doing their job, and the fact that it took nearly 40 minutes before police were sent in.
Another incident which took place on August 31st in Prince Edward station saw the elite riot police attack, unarmed protesters and civilians, before leaving only making a small handful of arrests. First aid personnel were barred from entering the station, and rumours began to spread that some people had died, despite the MTR and government’s reassurances that nobody had died that night.
Public trust in the police force and government is largely eroded. With no end in sight to the protests, Hong Kong is looking at a very grim 2020.