How can we support Hong Kong
Protesters and supporters in Hong Kong : "I'm not sure how long we can hold out"
Masks and a British passport
Alice, 30, works in the media industry (recorded after a Skype interview)
The other day I saw a group of old women among the demonstrators, real grandmothers with gray hair, they were probably older than 70. They too were wearing swimming goggles and masks. The scene touched me. To see that they too are committed to a better Hong Kong. Another day I met a younger colleague who was marching in the front ranks. I invited him to lunch. He said goodbye with the words: "I hope I will not be arrested." That is not unlikely, hundreds of people have already been arrested.
I am a more rational person. But when you join the protests, everything suddenly becomes more emotional. I also demonstrated at the umbrella protests five years ago and afterwards I was so disappointed. In my opinion, we didn't achieve anything back then. We weren't sure if we'd get another chance like this.
The current protests are so advanced - we can't go back. It is no longer just a matter of our demands, but of general differences between Hong Kong and China. Hong Kong shows how a democratic state can rebel against China. I am confident that the international community will support us. All of this is no longer just a matter of Hong Kong; it is also about how the world is going to deal with China's totalitarian style. If everything goes wrong, I'll leave Hong Kong. I have a UK passport and I could move to the UK. Many of my friends are considering emigrating to Japan or Taiwan.
In the meantime we are all experienced protesters, nobody panics anymore when the police use tear gas. I recently flew to Japan and Taiwan with friends. There we bought masks with good filters, which are hard to come by in Hong Kong. We got as many as we could and smuggled them into Hong Kong. I'm not afraid of tanks because you can see them. My concern is with the invisible dangers. There is a rumor that Chinese police infiltrated the demonstrators and disguised as protesters could kill a Hong Kong police officer.
Rubber ammunition and table salt
Kevin (name changed), 28, accountant (recorded after a Whatsapp chat)
These protests are different from those five years ago. There are no official organizers, everything is planned by ordinary citizens. I am active on the front line with a group of people. We help erect roadblocks and provide first aid when people are injured.
Since the middle of July, the police have been using tear gas more and more frequently, two or three different types, but the expiry date has expired. We don't know if that makes any difference in terms of effect. At the very beginning we simply used water to clean the protesters' eyes, faces or arms. But since using this expired tear gas, people have been complaining of increased pain.
Since mid-July, the police have also been firing the tear gas canisters directly on the bodies of the demonstrators, the first responders and the journalists present. In addition, they are now increasingly using rubber bullets. The injuries that result are difficult to treat on the street. People have to go to a hospital right away. We pay for our equipment and everything we need for first aid ourselves. Most often we need water and saline solution. For everyone at the front, bulletproof vests would probably not be bad either. Am I afraid? Sure, I'm in the front row and we're being shot at with rubber ammunition. I'm not worried about Chinese tanks, I'm more concerned about whether water cannons are used. Because we don't know what damage they can cause.
All in all, the situation is quite hopeless, it feels like no one on an international level can help us. I'm not sure how long we can hold out. Maybe this winter? One experience in the last few weeks made me particularly sad and angry: A young nurse was shot at by the police with a shotgun and she lost her right eye. Why do you do that? Since 2014, most people under 30 no longer identify as Chinese, but as Hong Kong. That will only increase.
Left alone in Berlin
Alice, 24, artist (recorded after an interview at a demonstration in Berlin)
I was seriously injured during the umbrella protests in 2014. Policemen attacked me and forcibly pushed me to the ground. The scene is even available on video; a cameraman from a television station filmed everything. I had injuries to my back, especially my neck, where vertebrae were dislocated. With the help of some volunteer lawyers, I was able to get compensation for pain and suffering. I took that and came to Berlin. Here I organized the first demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate in mid-June. People should know what is happening in Hong Kong. While the umbrella movement was still peaceful, some of the demonstrations were now very violent. The Hong Kong police are brutal against the demonstrators.
There are two groups among the protesters: the peaceful, the rational, the non-violent and the activists at the front. While the two groups were still active against each other in 2014, they are now getting closer, which is good. Because we have learned from the past that it only makes things worse if you are not united. How important this is can also be seen during the protest marches: Because it is too loud and calls cannot be heard, the demonstrators have developed their own sign language. With this, those in the front rows signal what they need. For example, hands above your head means: helmets! The hands in front of the chest, as if they were holding a bottle, means: saline solution! The signs are repeated from the back rows and move like a wave through the crowd. Everything you need is then passed on to the front.
Anyone who switches on their cell phone in Hong Kong these days will automatically receive files, AirDrop files, that contain information about the protests via Bluetooth. We Hong Kongers in exile feel that the German government has left us a little alone. When we asked for help with the parties, we initially only received one answer: We are on vacation.
The best of both worlds
Tushar Chaudhuri, 45, lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University (recorded after a Skype interview)
We're currently on vacation, so I don't know how many of my students are currently taking part in the protests. Of course I'm worried about her. Two were arrested two weeks ago. A young man for buying several laser pointers for demonstrations. Another because he was demonstrating against the arrest of the first. Both were held for 48 hours and are now luckily free again. Suddenly the protest was very close.
I've lived in Hong Kong for 14 years and I empathize with it, even when I'm not at the marches. I've been watching for a long time how the Hong Kong special status is being dismantled. That comes mainly from the government here. I cannot say how much influence Beijing will have on this. In any case, it started long before the extradition law. Hong Kong has also become much more expensive in recent years. Instead of social housing, many luxury apartments were built because the Chinese would like to have a second home here. Hong Kong people are increasingly skeptical about the “one country, two systems” concept.
Hong Kong is the best of both worlds, western and Asian values are united here. You can see that now with the protests. The fact that people fight back, speak up, reminds me a lot of Europe. Then there is the Asian discipline and politeness. The protesters apologized for blocking the airport. Students apologize for not coming to class the next day. That was also the case with the umbrella movement. Some of them said to me: We are coming, but please understand if we are very tired or injured. The students are really determined. After there had been riots during the demonstrations, it was peaceful again at the weekend. Let's hope it stays that way. Personally, I don't think China will attempt to forcefully crush the protest before October 1st, the national holiday. That would be too embarrassing.
Provocative police officers
Wong Yik Mo, 33, Civil Human Rights Front activist (recorded after a Whatsapp chat)
I don't wear a helmet during the demonstrations. I can run fast. It just got more dangerous. Police violence has escalated, many officers are undercover during the demonstrations and provoke riots. Because we don't want to tolerate that, almost two million people marched peacefully through Hong Kong last Sunday. Hong Kong is our hometown, we have a duty to protect it. Independence is not one of our demands, that is Chinese propaganda, an old trick. If you ask me about one concern, the only thing is that people might turn away from the movement. But we stand united and we know who belongs and who is a spy. My association, the Civil Human Rights Front, organizes demonstrations, rallies and helps those in need of legal assistance. Recently I even went to the United Nations in Geneva to discuss the situation in Hong Kong.
We don't share values
Jerald (name changed), 31, architect (recorded after a Skype interview)
At first I was a little indifferent to the protests. But immediately after June 15, the day a young protester took his own life, I was there. Somebody died for this town! That moved me a lot. And obviously not just me. After the accident, the number of demonstrators doubled. It is not about political advantages, but about a human right: freedom. In my opinion, we Hong Kongers are so different from the mainland Chinese, we no longer share values. We have to fight until we win. Emigrating is not the solution, the Chinese influence is everywhere, you cannot escape it.
Some US flags were now visible during the protests. We share with the United States a love of democracy and human rights - and a conflict with China. In the trade dispute, China is currently under great pressure. The flags were an SOS for the world and the US. We fight like it's our last fight, we give it our all.
Our motto is: "Be water"
Koharu (name changed), 24, librarian (recorded after a Whatsapp chat)
My parents never stop me from protesting. They believe that the current movement is extremely important for Hong Kong's future. Five years ago, during the umbrella protests that I attended as a student, they thought differently. At that time they had no confidence that, for example, I would make the right decision in a dangerous situation. In my opinion, running away is the most effective "defense" because we protesters have no weapons and no strength to fight the police. That's why I always only take the most important things with me in my backpack: mask, helmet, safety glasses. If I could only take one of them with me, it would definitely be the helmet. Not only because the police are aiming at our heads, but also because things keep falling off the roof during the protests. On June 12th, I was standing on a bridge when the police suddenly started chasing demonstrators. It happened so quickly, everyone screamed and ran away. I was suddenly in the front row, the police only three or four paces away. It was the first time I was so close to them that they could have beaten up or arrested me. We all ran. A woman fell and lost a tooth. My friend is a first responder in the front rows. When the police started using rubber bullets and shotballs, I begged him to back off. But after these past two months, no matter what, I don't ask him anymore. I know: someone has to be in front. I will never stop fighting for peace until I die. When I worked abroad, I always introduced myself with the addition "I'm from Hong Kong and Hong Kong is not China". If that confused people, I told them about Hong Kong's story and explained the differences. I love Hong Kong, I would never emigrate. During the umbrella protests we tried to occupy a certain area. But we failed. Our motto this time is: "Be water". A quote from Bruce Lee. We try to be flexible, a bit like guerrilla.
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