How Hong Kong's protesters won hearts and saved lives

Why two million protestors in Hong Kong are winning hearts worldwide

HongKong-Protesters-Let-Ambulance-Through-Reuters Protestors in Hong Kong parted to let an ambulance through | Reuters

With millions of Hong Kong residents taking to the streets over the weekend and on Monday, videos and images of the protests have swept the internet. For many, what has stood out is the humanity of the protesters, who are trying to minimize casualties and injuries amidst the chaos and uncertainty that comes with mass movements.

The bravery and kindness of the protesters have resulted in several videos going viral, from crowds parting to allow an ambulance through to reporters being given umbrellas to shield themselves from the police force’s tear gas.

The latest series of protests echo the 2014 ones, both aimed at furthering democratic liberties and both met with brutal police repression. The hashtag used in the anti-extradition protests, #OccupyHongKong, is similar to the hashtag #OccupyCentral that was used in 2014. The Cantonese version of the song 'Do You Hear the People Sing?', first translated from English during the Occupy Movement has also been doing the rounds again, with its lyrics being "Airdropped" onto demonstrators phones at the protest.

Protesters used encrypted messenger apps to organise themselves, rather than social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, so as to escape police detection. They even came prepared with umbrellas and gas masks to protect themselves from water cannons and tear gas attacks of the police.

However, the most remarkable character of the protesters is their humanity. The accidental death of a protester on June 16 ignited emotions and led to a more responsible protest taking place. The man fell to his death while climbing up scaffolding to hang a banner. Protesters later held a mass mourning, lighting candles, enacting makeshift shrines and naming him the movement’s “First Martyr,” hoping that he would be the last.

Despite their anger, the crowds still maintained a sense of civic duty. Twitter user Agnes Chowting posted a video of the protesters making way for an ambulance on a jam-packed road in Causeway Bay.

The video has since gone viral, with twitter users appreciating the protesters' maturity and discipline. Another video of CBS journalist Ramy Incencio being given an umbrella and a helmet has also been widely circulated on twitter.

In an unusual turn of events, local porn sites banned themselves temporarily to encourage people to go out and join the protest. Their actions are similar to the other 100 or so business owners and shops that shut themselves down temporarily to allow their workers to take part in the protests.

Pro-Beijing Carrie Lam's apology on Sunday did little to assuage the protesters as they continue to march to the Chief Executive Office and chant “dialogue” and “withdraw”, urging Carrie Lam to talk directly to the people. The Central Liaison Office that represents Beijing in Hong Kong has backed Lam, despite the Hong Kong public’s disapproval of her.

On Monday, June 16, Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong was released from prison after one month in prison. He was at the forefront of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement of 2014, that demanded Hong Kong hold elections in consonance with international standards of equal and universal suffrage.

On his release on Monday, he immediately put out a statement in support of the ongoing Hong Kong protests against the extradition law, demanding the resignation of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam.

In his Time magazine article on June 13, Joshua Wong said that “A victory for Beijing is a victory for authoritarianism everywhere.” He also called upon the international community to keep an eye on Hong Kong as it would “send a message to Chinese authorities that democracy, not authoritarianism, is the way of the future.” He added that it would also keep their spirits high as they would know that they are not alone in their fight against authoritarianism.

By Monday, protestors had started to disperse as streets opened for traffic. However, leaders have promised continued agitations if their demands are not met, particularly if Lam does not step down.

On Tuesday, Lam issued a second apology but did not resign, assuring the public that there was no timetable to implement the extradition bill. She said the bill would not be resumed if the government did not clear the divisions over it.