Hong Kong police have fired thousands of canisters of tear gas—a chemical weapon that is banned for use in wartime by international conventions—at protesters on the city's streets since June, often in enclosed spaces or at crowds that are already trying to leave the area. In return, black-clad protesters in their now-familiar garb of helmet, face-mask, respirator and body armor, have set fire to barricades, fought back with their own batons during baton charges by police, and lobbed bricks and petrol bombs, buying valuable time for unarmed protesters to leave peacefully.
RFA recently spoke to two frontline fighters, identified only as "A" and "B," at a U.S.-based protester press conference, where they are turning their hand to a different task, raising public awareness of the protest movement:
A: Actually the protester press conference isn't an organization, it's just a platform. We have just gotten together with a few friends to oppose the Hong Kong government and the police. The Hong Kong police force, for example, has a daily news briefing at 4:00 p.m., and the sort of things they say in those briefings really isn't in keeping with anything we would recognize. We want to talk about how this movement is developing from the point of view of the people of Hong Kong. It's something we do every day.
The protester press conferences have had a very broad impact. When Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam was chatting with some Hong Kong people on Oct. 17, it was watched by 400,000 people via livestream from the government website. The protester press conference livestreams are typically watched by around 700,000 people.
Hong Kong people's fight against extradition to China has taken many forms. That's why we say that protests should "be water." Water can take on different forms. It can be very still, and it can also sometimes be very turbulent. Hong Kong people have the right to choose the form that they want their protest to take on any given day.
B: The frontline fighters are one form that this water takes. It is a form created by necessity in the face of police violence. There is a branch of the Hong Kong police known as the "raptors." They have the blood of anti-extradition protesters on their hands. So the frontline fighters have become the anti-raptors.
The acts of bravery by the anti-raptors in Hong Kong happen because they are doing it for their fellow protesters who died. But Hong Kong people are smart, and they know what they should be doing and what they shouldn't.
The Hong Kong police have effectively become a branch of the military. Seen psychologically, as soon as they take up that role, regardless of whether they are Hongkongers by identity or by conscience, they have to believe that what they are doing is right. People have been trying to argue and plead with them, telling them that what they're doing isn't right, but this is unlikely to make them come back to more normal ways of thinking.
There really is no going back now. The people of Hong Kong have seen through the Hong Kong police, to their core, and they have written them off. They should be disbanded.
Sometimes we think that these protests will go on and on for years, decades even, until protest just becomes a natural part of living in Hong Kong.
Reported by C.K. for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.