- Title: Hong Kong protest frontliner ready to risk "life" for democracy
- Date: 16th August 2019
- Summary: AH LUNG'S PHONE LOCK SCREEN BACK GROUND (Chinese): Recovery of Hong Kong, era of revolution
- Embargoed: 30th August 2019 01:34
- Keywords: Hong Kong protesters frontliner civil unrest extradition bill protests violence
- Location: HONG KONG, CHINA
- City: HONG KONG, CHINA
- Country: Hong Kong
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Civil Unrest,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA002ASGU2IV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: FACES WERE BLURRED AND VOICES DISTORTED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITIES OF PROTESTERS
Protesters on the frontline of demonstrations in Hong Kong have said they are willing to give up their lives in their bid for democracy and maintaining the 'one-country, two-systems' formula, amid protests that have roiled the territory for the past 10 weeks.
One of the frontline protester Ah Lung - a nickname that means "dragon" - represents a growing number of discontented Hong Kong youth fuelling a fast-changing protest movement that has taken on a revolutionary cast.
"I don't have any confidence in both the Chinese and the Hong Kong government" said Ah Lung, who spends his days working in a trading company and his nights facing off against riot police. He declined to give his real name.
Under the 'one-country, two-systems' formula, China promised Hong Kong that it would enjoy autonomy for 50 years after its handover from Britain in 1997. For young protesters born after the handover, that deadline will fall in the middle of their lives.
Putting on body gear purchased from a motorbike shop - which include mask, helmet as well as arm, body and leg protection - in a small apartment in the Sham Shui Po neighbourhood on Sunday (August 11), Ah Lung said he is ready for a night of protests that would become one of the most violent Hong Kong had seen up to now.
"Our youngsters have nothing to lose. Because we have no big dependence on people and we have no property. If we fail, we would pay with our lives," Ah Lung said.
The protesters and their supporters come from a broad cross-section of society - rich and poor, male and female, young and old - making the city a tinder box that could ignite at any moment. The protesters speak in increasingly desperate terms, and violence has become widely accepted as a principle of resistance by many of them.
On that Sunday afternoon, riot police rushed out and fired tear gas at the bustling street of Sham Shui Po, and arrested some people. Rather than make a stand, the group of several hundred decided to evacuate as tear gas rounds boomed in the distance.
"Zau ah," shouted black-clad leaders in the crowd, exhorting the other protesters to run away in Cantonese.
They then swiftly changed locations - their fluid movement becoming a steely and creative resistance to Chinese rule that has rattled the Communist Party.
"Be water!" has been the mantra of the protesters, a phrase borrowed from Hong Kong movie star Bruce Lee, who used it to describe his kung fu philosophy. It is a call for flexibility and creativity, moving forward when there is an opportunity to press an advantage and flowing away when a strategic retreat is needed.
Its latest manifestation has been the series of wildcat protests that have spread across the city in recent weeks. When police turn up in numbers at one protest, the activists engage them to tie up officers, and then melt away to another neighborhood, where they repeat the process.
"Our protection gear cannot fight against the police's weapons. That's why we can only use flash mobs to split the police's power to make them feel tired and go back. This is all we can do," said Ah Lung.
While the movement clearly is being supported by established pro-democracy activists, one of the striking features of the recent protests has been the sight of activists like Ah Lung, clad head to toe in black protective gear, rallying other protesters to move forward, or retreat, or set off to the next flash mob protest in another district.
Unlike Occupy, which pushed for the rather lofty goal of universal suffrage, the extradition bill was more tangible, the protesters say, uniting those who had remained silent for years.
"If you ask me, I can say any frontliner is scared. But are we afraid of being arrested or losing our homes? We are afraid of losing our home called Hong Kong," said Ah Lung.
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