Hong Kong : love in times of tear gas

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In shocking developments, on July 22, 2019, suspected triad gang members attacked and beat up protesters, people clad in black or even passerbys at Yuen Long MTR station, in the New Territories. As a response, on 27 July, protesters decided to go to Yuen Long to protest against the violence by triads. It was there that I witnessed a whole generation learning to live love in times of tear gas.

Yuen Long, a triad hotbed

It is well known to people familiar with Hong Kong, that some parts of the New Territories, particularly the parts nearest to China are so much under the influence of triads that the police thread cautiously there, or even have gentleman’s agreements.

Another part of Beijing’s supporters reside in local rural committees, where proximity to China does cause some serious clan-based politics.

On 22 July, these alleged triad members launched an attack on Yuen Long MTR station, where they beat up indifferently people dressed up in black and other bystanders. The police took 39 minutes to arrive and when they arrived, treated the victims with aggressivity. This caused great anger among the population. Later, the police retreated, locked down their police station… And the triads returned once again to beat people in the station!

Screen cap from Standard HK
Triads attacking people at Yuen Long station. Credit Standard New HK journalist (screen cap from live feed).

Obviously, this caused great public anger at the attitude of the police, not to mention the government which focused really on the emblem of China being dirtied at the Beijing’s liaison office.

Calls were made thus to protest on Saturday 27 July in Yuen Long to protest against the collusion between police and triads.

A prohibited protest

Rather unexpectedly, the police did refuse to allow the protest to go ahead, and emitted several warnings that participants would be arrested. Officially, they feared the protesters would go and cause conflicts with local villagers.

This did not stop a huge crowd from coming to Yuen Long. However, this time, most of the protesters came “equipped” for a fight. In back streets, helmets started being worn up, while waiting for news on Telegram and other channels about where to go.

Protester walking with helmet and umbrella
A promenade with advice of tear gas

Eventually, protesters started confronting the blockades of the riot police and blocking the streets near the MTR station. I reported on Periscope at the time.

The periscope in Yuen Long.

After some charge by the police and corresponding retreat by protesters, eventually, the police retreated to a double front, protesters focusing on one of the fronts.

Facing off

In a pretty classical setup now, the police kept shooting tear gas to the protesters, each time they attempted to advance on their lines. There was little contact, although protesters kept pelleting the riot police with various projectiles.

Protesters push forward againsnt the police lines
Protesters push forward against the police lines.

As the protest changed its angle of focus, I moved closer to the frontlines, where angry protesters kept banging rhythmically on metal barriers. I asked a protester why this was being done now, and that it sounded as war drums. He corrected me, saying it is a way to tell the police “how much of them were out there”.

Protesters, kept charging at the police lines, hence provoking more tear gas.

Tear gas canister goes off among journalists
A tear gas canister goes off among journalists

Heavy weaponry

Protesters kept pelleting the police with various objects (I saw one of them running with some bricks in his hands).

On the other side, the police used liberally both, tear gas and rubber or foam bullets. You can see on the pic below, the special guns pointed at the protesters.

Police point special rubber bullet guns to the crowd.
Police point rubber bullet guns towards the protesters in Yuen Long

The game went on and on for hours, with the protesters apparently just content to goad the police into using tear gas and charging.

As the protesters attempted yet another advance, tear gas filled the air.

Photographers keep filming as tear gas swells around them.
Photographers on the frontlines

Protesters did not remain passive when subjected to the gas: they quickly poured water on the canisters to extinguish them.

Protesters extinguishing a cannister of tear gas.
Protesters extinguishing a canister of tear gas in Yuen Long

Love in times of tear gas

It was just after some tear gas evaporated that I saw the couple which inspired this article. They were pulling back from the corner of the street where the police line was established. The boy kept pulling his girlfriend to retreat.

Two youngsters pulling back from frontlines
The two youngsters pulling back from the frontlines

The closeness of the couple in their struggle was truly moving. It seemed that the younger generation could only know now to live their love in times of tear gas.

Love in times of tear gas

Pushed to fight against an intractable force such as the Chinese communist party, these kids learn now to see their love as part of a more general fight which marks their generation.

The future of the “Black Bauhinia revolution” is not yet certain. One thing is certain, however: this generation of young hongkongers is steeling itself for more violent times in the future of HK. As a banner said at the LegCo, the day it was invaded: “If we burn, you burn with us”.

In Yuen Long, protesters face off as the night descends

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