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熱血、暴力，還有聰明的示威者 | Passion, Violence & the Smart Protester
at 4:44pm on 19th August 2019
1.–5. 2019年8月5日，示威者在金鐘逃避催淚彈 。照片由作者提供
1.-5. Protesters evading tear-gas on Harcourt Road, Admiralty, 5 August 2019. Photo: John Batten
(Please scroll down for English version)
- The Moody Blues樂隊1972年作品《迷失於失落世界》（Lost in a Lost World）
2019年7月28日，警察從西營盤中聯辦把示威者驅至上環港鐵站與港澳碼頭附近緊迫的一處*。催淚彈與橡膠子彈不斷在狹窄的內街重覆發射，周圍盡是民居，居民被困於交鋒之間令，做法惹人爭議。在同一星期內，上環街頭已是第二次成為戰場。後來到了晚上11時，警察從三路包圍示威者，然後向聚集在中遠大廈旁空地的群眾施放催淚彈。示威者很快便選擇向皇后大道西或威靈頓街這兩條路線撤離。那夜告終時，警方總共拘捕了44名示威者 –– 這個數字可以高出很多；這是很多示威者早已知道的事情。
香港示威者都是聰明人，但最聰明的示威者會採取絕不暴力的公民抗命方法。只有這樣做，政府和警察才不會有更多道德彈藥，可用來把自己的行動和不溝通的做法合理化。然後， 市民大眾––別忘了2百萬 + 1––便可以向政府施壓和勸服內地主事人，找出結束這場政治危機的方案。
* 見 www.facebook.com/battenjohn/videos/10156603992322371/
Passion, Violence & the Smart Protester
by John Batten
“Angry people in the street
(so many people, so many people)
Are telling them they''ve had their fill
Of politics that wound and kill.
Grow the seeds of evolution
(so many people, so many people).
Revolution never won
It''s just another form of gun….”
-The Moody Blues, Lost in a Lost World, 1972
The anti-extradition protesters are referred to by fellow Hong Kongers, or by anyone of my age, or by mothers, or by teachers, and by those that criticize them, as “the kids”. I kick to correct myself, as that description is not accurate and is condescending. They are passionate protesters and their protests is no child’s play.
In a pattern seen over the last months, protesters remaining after the end of peaceful marches or rush to police stations or other sites of protest will be confronted by police and disbursed, usually by rubber bullets and tear gas, often fired at eye-level. The blast of attack will often resound a moment later with the thud of police projectiles against the flimsy shields made from wood, children’s surfboards, or street-signs pulled off the streets and re-provisioned with hastily made handles. The protesters stand in a phalanx of shields and open umbrellas. The “thud”, “thud”, “thud” of bullets hitting this thin physical barricade between the police and hardcore protesters is sickening.
The protesters will return fire with their own projectiles: stones, sticks, water bottles – and quickly chase down a tear-gas canister, extinguishing it by placing a red plastic traffic cone over it. (The cones found on the street, ironically, are often ‘supplied’ by the police). Or, if the police are close, canisters will be quickly picked up, and still emitting gas, be thrown back towards the police; sometimes a tennis racquet will give extra propulsion. The noise is deafening. Protesters will bang on anything at hand, steel street signs and roadside steel barriers give particularly strong sound resonance. Loud-hailers and chants of “Hong Kong, add oil!” and “Liberate Hong Kong!” amidst abuse towards the police are the sounds of these confrontations.
On the police lines, similar is happening: batons are banged against their smaller round-shaped hand-shields and the long shields are banged against the ground. At the larger-scale confrontations, the police are often a similar age to the protesters – mere ‘kids’. For smaller incidents, the police are often older, tougher. There is violence in the air, fuelled by the two opposing lines of protagonists, whizzing projectiles and masculine, often brute macho aggression. It is a potent mix, especially when the police hold weapons that can and do cause injury.
On 28 July 2019, the police drove protesters back from the Liaison Office in Sai Ying Pun to a tight area around Sheung Wan MTR station and the Macau Ferry Terminal*. Tear-gas and rubber bullets were repeatedly fired in narrow streets surrounded by residential flats, controversially trapping some residents in the crossfire. For the second time in a week, the streets of Sheung Wan were a battlefield. Eventually, by 11pm, the police had surrounded protesters on three sides, and then fired tear gas towards the large crowd congregated in the open area next to Cosco Tower. The protesters then quickly dispersed along one of two escape routes, Queen’s Road West or up Wellington Street. At the end of the night, 44 protesters had been arrested – this number could have been much higher; and many protesters knew it.
That night’s Sheung Wan protest changed the tactics employed by protesters at subsequent actions. They literally put in practise the two slogans heard from the earliest days of the protests: “add oil” and “be water”. Or, as I heard one night: “Quick, quick, be water, add oil!” All future protests see protesters retreating quickly from barricades, moving quickly from one site to another, moving around Hong Kong, to avoid being caught and arrested. However, the violence by hardcore protesters is still happening.
Violence is a dead-end, as it is the one action that allows the government off the hook to continue ignoring protesters’ five demands and give the police a freehand to continue their own, often violent, overly aggressive policing and apply dubious and serious charges to prosecute some detained protesters.
Hong Kong protesters are smart, but the smartest protester uses tactics of civil disobedience that is strictly non-violent. If adopted, the government and police will have no more moral ammunition to justify their own actions and non-communication. Then, the public - remember the 2million + 1 – can pressure government and persuade their mainland overseers to explore solutions to end this political crisis.
This opinion piece was originally published in Ming Pao Weekly on 16 August 2019. Translated into Chinese from the English by Aulina Chan.