I am living in fear.
This fear certainly pales in contrast to the military conflicts in places like Syria, or the humanitarian crises against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China. I know that.
I knew what happened in Hong Kong, my hometown, the past two weekends could be a possibility, but I was still baffled, gutted and enraged by the horrific scenes in one of the supposed safest cities on Earth.
The negligence of the government and the police force put the backs of the Hong Kong public against the wall and, frankly, made us feel unsafe.
I feel like I am obligated to share this story because I can still do it, unlike in nations where the government strangles freedom of speech.
The city has been caught in another controversy, as the government and lawmakers look to pass a bill establishing means of extraditing criminals to and from China and Taiwan. The largest concern is a flawed Chinese judiciary system that boasts a 99.9 percent conviction rate, according to official Chinese sources, and has not been low profile about its ways to mistreat and coerce those arrested into guilty pleas or submissions.
Starting from early June, different forms of protests have occurred — then, things escalated even more on July 21.
To quote Reuters and CNN, respectively, a very pro-establishment group of “triad gangsters” and a “mob armed with batons” waited at Yuen Long station — a comparatively rural area in Hong Kong.
As anti-establishment protesters from a city-wide march returned home, the violent pro-establishment groups in white shirts charged the station and wielded their weapons at people — protesters, civilians, journalists. Basically, anyone they saw. It was well-documented by various live streams by news outlets like Apple Daily and Now TV News online.
You may ask, “Where was law enforcement?”
The Yuen Long police station closed the gates before the attack, which was tipped off earlier. Officers did not make an appearance until the pro-establishment group had mostly dissipated, and continued treating the civilians with blatant disrespect and borderline disregard, according to the accounts of the protesters and locals.
Emergency calls could not go through, and some people were told that they should have stayed home in the first place as local residents voiced their frustrations in interviews and online.
Imagine calling 911 and no one picks up, or the person on the other end of the line did not care.
The area was in an anarchist state for almost an hour, and what happened could very well constitute as an act of terrorism for its hateful nature and its act of violence against civilians. The strike spiraled out of control and became a series of assaults against those emerging out of the trains, regardless of their stances.
On the other hand, a group of protesters around a vandalized Liaison Office of China was shot at by police officers with very little warning, according to multiple reports from local outlets and those at the scene. Fifty rounds of tear gas and 29 rounds of rubber bullets were fired at the crowd from atop a footbridge, with bright lights and smoke blocking out the visions of both the protesters and journalists.
Most police officers, especially a tactical squad, did not brandish their warrant cards and officer numbers, while also using reflective tape on their helmets to make themselves unidentifiable as they used excessive force and commit acts of police brutality, as captured by local and international journalists alike.
An unauthorized protest took place in Yuen Long on July 26, with another escalation of violence from the police. They fired tear gas shells with disregard of the surroundings, with some of the shells landing by residential buildings, retirement homes and even onto train tracks as seen in the aforementioned live streams. The night ended in a similar melee, but this time the police being the aggressor.
The clash hit the prosperous Central and Western District the next day, bordering a humanitarian issue.
Police were, again, trying to disperse crowds by using excessive force. It was seen that a downed protester was kicked in the head on a live stream of the incident. There were pictures from media outlets of dented Red Cross and safety helmets from headshot attempts.
Ambulances and the fire department were blockaded by the police in their attempts to reach the clash zone to provide first aid.
Police also misused its weaponry. Protesters discovered that the tear gas shells were expired. Rubber bullets were also fired right at people instead of toward the ground to inflict minimal damage.
The police force was also accused of violating freedom of the press. The liaison officer never provided any numbers for media members on scene and police kept accusing the media of protecting the protesters. Tear gas was inadvertently fired at members of the press, with a CNN crew caught in the action.
No resolution in sight
Protests have been going on for almost two months now, and the government and police force still aren't seeming to take millions of people's voices seriously.
It was the same tape-recorded response every time from our Chief Executive and other officials condemning the protesters as the police used excessive force compared to other anti-government protests in the world.
It pains me to see people that negligent and downright incapable ruling over a modern global city.
One of the largest downfalls of Hong Kong is that we have never had true democracy and this goes back to the British colonial rule. If we did not have it then, we should not expect to have it now that we are back in the hands of a communist and authoritarian state in China.
The leader of the city, Carrie Lam, was elected Hong Kong’s chief executive by a voting committee — not the general public — that only represents 0.016 percent of the population. This creates mass disproportional representation of the political views of the general public with the leaders of the society leaning toward pro-establishment. Some of those industry leaders also elect half of the Legislative Council members, with the majority of those being pro-establishment lawmakers.
Circling back from the bigger picture to the clash at Yuen Long on July 21, it was not the first time that protesters were attacked in a way that seems like the violent pro-establishment groups are corroborating with the government and the police force.
They have a dominating control over the area as “natives,” and have been linked to sticky situations for years with the Hong Kong government, much akin to the triads. The Chinese government negotiated with those groups to rein them in as the handover talks were progressing.
This also aligns with an old trick up the Communist Party’s sleeve — pitting the masses against the masses to weaken the opposition.
A lot of these statements and accounts may sound like over exaggerated allegations, but they are simply ridiculous truths in this global metropolis with a complicated historical background.
I may be more removed compared to some of my peers at home since I spend the majority of the year overseas, away from Hong Kong. It does not hurt me any less to see my home in this state.
Hong Kong is in purgatory now. There is very little the citizens can actually do in the short term against the government, the police and the lawmakers in the Legislative Council.
The conflict and violence itself is not about race or religious beliefs — it is solely based on differences in political beliefs, further fueled by the escalating brutality of the police force.
There simply does not seem to be a way out.