Hong Kong's uncles and aunties take on role of guardian angels
Hong Kong's uncles and aunties take on role of guardian angels, watching over the young protesters amid violence
As riot police chased and arrested protesters outside a luxury mall in Hong Kong last Sunday, two black-clad youth ducked behind a huddle of middle-aged and elderly people, who quickly formed a human wall around them.
The yellow vests they wore were printed with the words "Protect the Children", identifying them as volunteers of a group which was formed in response to what they viewed as the increasingly brutal treatment of protesters at the hands of police during the city's four-month-long anti-government protests.
"What are you arresting so many people for? They are Hong Kong's youth, they love democracy," an 82-year-old volunteer, known as Uncle Wong, shouted at the police force's Special Tactical Squad, also known as Raptors, as they pinned down a protester.
Minutes before this confrontation, Wong had leaned against a wall, eyes closed, apparently struggling with the fumes of tear gas fired just moments ago. Protesters young and old came up to check on him, offering water and words of encouragement.
An image of Wong holding his walking stick horizontally above his head in front of a line of riot police has become one of the defining moments of the protests. Wong, along with another elderly volunteer, 73-year-old Uncle Chan, and many other middle-aged men and women, would go to sites of violent clashes and ask both sides to rethink their actions in the hopes of cooling the situation.
"Of course it is dangerous, they have pepper spray, but all we need to do is block police, even for two, three seconds, those kids can run away. We beg police, try to cool things down," Uncle Wong said, recalling his experience on the front lines like a seasoned war veteran.
"If they get away, we are happy, we have done a good thing. The maximum is 10 years' jail (for rioting), the kids' future would be wasted," he said. "I'm 80-something now, I don't have much time left, I'm ready to move on any time."Uncle Chan is also prepared to take the fall. "Police are trying to dig up dirt on me, they could arrest me at any time. It is fine if they want to arrest me, but they must have reasonable suspicion."
Protect the Children is just one of many self-organised groups " from first-aid workers to legal teams and human-rights monitors " watching over the protesters who have been demonstrating since June against the now-withdrawn extradition bill. The bill would have allowed criminal suspects to be transferred to mainland China and other jurisdictions which the city did not have any agreements with.
Organised by hunger striker and pastor Roy Chan Hoi-hing, 38, the group started as five people forming a human chain during the July 14 protest in Sha Tin, when riot police rushed into a mall in the district, pepper spraying and beating retreating protesters.Volunteers signed up separately for each protest, so numbers fluctuated from 30 to 80 elderly people and aunties on any given day, he said. The first time they went out in the field on July 21, there were 200.
The volunteers, who are housewives, counsellors, property agents, office workers and drivers, are provided with helmets, goggles and gas masks, what Chan called "the three treasures". Many were protesters first, before deciding they needed to help more.
The group has a command centre that monitors the whole city, while volunteers on the ground are split into teams of seven and sent out to different zones, rushing from conflict site to conflict site with whatever transport is available. Each team has a member of the clergy or experienced social worker assigned to it.
"We hope that when we show up and people see the silver-haired elders, both protesters and police can calm down," Chan said. The group also provides on-site emotional support, and when needed, they send young protesters home.
"Many of the young girls who have been stopped and searched come out traumatised. I've watched as some volunteers who are mothers themselves just hold them as they break down into tears," he said.
During moments of relative calm, they walk around protest sites, calling on both demonstrators and passers-by to leave, telling them which routes have police lines and which are safe. They also try to get the names and identification numbers of arrested protesters.Last Sunday, another silver-haired volunteer watched anxiously as Special Tactical Squad and riot police searched a line of at least seven protesters, telling reporters "they look so young, please, try and get pictures of their faces", as police officers blocked his view.
However, as the protests have continued, police have begun to see the yellow-vest volunteers as a nuisance. As one group of volunteers walked past a group of riot police in Admiralty on Sunday, some officers shouted: "Protect the children, you're ruining the children."
"From July to the end of August, we noticed the police's attitude towards us had changed. In the beginning, there was the chance to have a dialogue. But now, they say we are harassing them or 'obstructing police work', and threaten to arrest us," said Chan.
He also said police accused them of attempting to snatch detained people. A police spokesperson declined to comment on the group and whether its members could face any possible charges.
Last month, police were strongly criticised after they were filmed kicking a Protect the Children volunteer who had been taken to a back alley in Yuen Long during a protest on September 21. The man was later sent to hospital, and the group said he had suffered injuries consistent with being kicked.
Police initially denied the claims, saying the officer had kicked a "yellow object" on the ground and claiming the video was doctored. Police also claimed the volunteer had assaulted an officer, although the claims could not be verified. Protect the Children said he had been trying to protect Uncle Chan, who was also pepper-sprayed that day.
Clearer videos of the kicking taken from different angles soon surfaced, finally prompting a police investigation. The volunteer involved has yet to decide if he will take action, and pastor Chan has said the group and its lawyers would decide according to his wishes. He is currently recovering from his injuries.
While Protect the Children is generally welcomed by protesters, Chan said the group had also been criticised by more radical demonstrators for being too "leftist", particularly because they also tried to stop protesters from beating up people who disagreed with them.
"If the protesters beat people we stop them too," he said. He described the situation in Yuen Long on September 21, where protesters beat an older man who had scolded them with iron rods. "I told them, you cannot do this, you'll kill him," Chan said.
"Protect the Children is about love, we go out with the power of love, even though that is very leftist."
Protect the Children is about love, we go out with the power of love, even though that is very leftistPastor Roy Chan
The guiding principle of "love" has also attracted younger people to join the group. One 25-year-old team leader, who only wished to be known as Wah Zhai, said he felt the group's views aligned with his own views as a Christian and decided to accept Chan's invitation to join.
"Because of my Christian values, I joined the movement as a 'wo, lei, fei' or rational, person. Protect the Children gave me the platform to contribute in line with my beliefs," he said.
Wah Zhai usually takes turns with the pastor to lead Uncle Wong's team, making him well-aware of the increasing risks. "It warms my heart to see (Uncle Wong), but it also worries me. It is like the government failed but the people are now taking responsibility," he said.
The police's accusations that the group was obstructing police work, and the shooting of an 18-year-old protester on Tuesday, had not shaken Wah Zhai's faith in the work he was doing.
"We follow whatever instructions police give us. We do not shout slogans or assault them, we stand between police and protesters hoping both sides can take a moment to rethink the violence," he said.
"If police could behave in a more restrained manner, I believe Protect the Children would not have to risk themselves at the front lines."
Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
1]dulu bajingan bule inggris pakai taktik kotor masukkan opium ke china
Perang Opium , Penyebab Dikuasainya Hong Kong oleh Inggris .
Dari tahun 1898 hingga 1997, Hong Kong disewakan kepada Inggris https://www.thoughtco.com/china-leas...britain-195153 tgl 1-juli-1997 China ambil balik Hong Kong dari inggris
]orang Hongkong itu masih tak berani belajar cara hadapi fakta & kenyataan bahwa Hongkong itu udah diambil alih oleh China 1-july-1997
diu nei lo mo ..
benar2 lucu waktu demonstrasi org2 hongkong itu ada yg klaim " Hongkong is part of Britain " bukan part of China sampai bawa2 bendera Inggris
makanya org2 hong kong itu pantas di sebut anjingnya inggris Dogs of British Imperialist
org2 hongkong itu lupa waktu zaman penjajahan kolonial Inggris di hongkong
pemimpin di hongkong ( gubenur ) itu saja tak pernah dipilih oleh rakyat hongkong sendiri
melainkan dipilih oleh baginda ratu Inggris
jadi apa salahnya China ikut cara Inggris ..
ini list gubenur hong kong yg dipilih oleh kolonial inggris bukan rakyat hong kong ( dari tahun 1841-1997)
semuanya bule inggris Governor of Hong Kong
China take over hong kong tgl 1-july-1997 ..berakhirlah zaman penjajahan kolonial inggris