PORTFOLIO

Hong Kong Protests

Sunday afternoon. A march of hundreds of thousands of protesters is nearing its end, and the frontline protesters (those who are continually in direct conflict with the Hong Kong Police) are setting up a front outside of the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station. 

 

Soon the police will meet the growing number of frontline protesters with rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets and power-hoses. I’ll fix myself between the protesters and the police, documenting the conflict. A battle like this is nothing new to any of us. We’re used to the burning skin, choking breaths, and tearing eyes. However, as I watch protesters get arrested and face the possibility of up to a ten-year prison sentence on “rioting” charges, I wonder if there will be any tangible positive outcome of the violence. 

 

What started as a general call against the proposed legislation of the Hong Kong Extradition Bill, which would allow Mainland China to extradite Hong Kongers to the mainland, has evolved over the last four months into a general call for Hong Kong autonomy, unabated by communist China’s interference.

 

Since then, I witnessed 1.7 million people meet at Victoria Park in one unified rally. I’ve also watched as, recently, the number of protesters has dwindled. As protesting tactics have grown increasingly violent, the protesters’ fear of the Hong Kong and Chinese government’s extreme measures to quell the protests has also grown. Fear drives people to violent actions.

 

And when my body is burning from tear gas, and I’m sick of choking in the smoke to get a shot, I think to myself of how the protesters might feel late at night when the adrenaline-fueled fight in them has worn out and they’ve returned home. They must feel drained, depressed, hopeless and scared.

 

It’s easy to document a conflict. It’s a completely different story to have your life hanging on the outcome of that conflict. In those moments of realization, I feel heartbroken for the people I’m standing next to.

 

Youngman Chan, a local pastor and former interpreter for Billy Graham, acknowledges the complexity of this conflict. “The protests are a very sad thing for Hong Kong. We’ve seen a deterioration for law and order. But the blame is not on the protesters for me. From a pastoral point of view, I think the government bears the brunt of responsibility.”

 

“From a divine, spiritual perspective, I think the church is learning to become more socially conscious and trying to discern what is right and what is wrong, and trying to discern the use of violence and why it started and how it will end. And these are very difficult ethical questions.”

 

But it is at the darkest moments of these protests that a small flicker of hope burns brightest. I see the camaraderie, communication and trust that these men and women share on the front line. They are brought together in their shared struggle. 

 

The protesters in Hong Kong face seemingly insurmountable odds in their battle for autonomy. But they’ve chosen this goliath fight because they believe in it. And that can be an inspiration to us all.

 

In these flickering moments of hope, I’m reminded that life is a battle of perseverance in a world crushed by the shortcomings of man—we all just face this battle on different scales. And though the battle can be grim, it is what we hold truest to ourselves that makes the battle worth it.

©2020 by Stanton Sharpe Photography. 

On August 18, 2019, an estimated 1.7 million people (almost a quarter of Hong Kong’s population) gathered at Victoria Park to call for an end to police brutality and to reiterate their five demands.