At a candlelight march two years ago
Statue of the man that the candlelight march was
in memory of at this year's June 4th candlelight vigil
A great man died two years ago today. Honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and widely respected abroad, Chinese poet-philosopher-patriot Liu Xiaobo was punished with imprisonment multiple times in his homeland and died from liver cancer while on medical parole but still guarded by state security.
Two days after his passing, thousands of people took part in a candlelight march in his memory in Hong Kong. Among my strongest memories of that march is our long procession passing by startled Mainland Chinese visitors who appeared to have no idea who was the compatriot of theirs that we were mourning and who also probably were very shocked to see that a protest was being allowed to peacefully take place on the streets of a city that was handed back to their motherland in July 1997.
Sadly, in the two years or so that have passed, we have seen increased repressions in both Mainland China and also Hong Kong. And while conditions in Hong Kong are (still) nowhere as bad as on the other side of the Hong Kong-Mainland China border, it is indeed appearing to be so that peaceful protests are no longer as much of a given as they were a little than a month ago.
More specifically: since the police fired pepper spray, tear gas, smoke bombs, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at anti-extradition bill protesters on June 12th, there have been a number of further violent disruptions of political protests on the streets of Hong Kong -- including earlier today in Sheung Shui. And the way things are going, this is not going to be stopping any time soon; with incidences of inappropriate police actions of the kind that were captured on video here, here and here looking like they will in fact increase since it is looking more and more like members of the Hong Kong police are increasingly fine with, and brazen about, exercising excessive force against members of the public.
If they think their actions are going to make people afraid to take part in further protests though, I think that they couldn't be far wrong. If anything, Hong Kongers have shown time and time again that their indignance at police along with other injustice actually results in more people turning up to take part in organized protests than otherwise might have been the case!
At the same time, it's also true that Hong Kong protesters are more and more inclined now to make sure that they have some sort of protective gear with them. For my part, even while there only been one occasion (thus far) when I felt a need to put them on, I do bring goggles and a face mask -- and, lately, a helmet too -- with me when I go take part in protest marches.
To those who actually think this: of course I never have plans to attack the police when I go protesting! Instead, I want to make sure that, in the event that they decide to do such as shoot tear gas or pepper spray into the crowd, I actually have some protection against the offending chemicals!
Something else that I actually didn't think needed to be made clear until I had certain discussions with people whose natural instinct it is to side with the authorities: yes, protesters are not unafraid; neither are we idiots. But when asked to stand up for what we care for and believe, we will do so, not least because we truly fear what will happen to the Hong Kong we love if we don't do so.
The fact of the matter is that there have been enough instances over the years of protests not being in vain. And while we were not able to save Liu Xiaobo, our continued fight for her freedom has surely contributed to his widow, Liu Xia, no longer being under house arrest and, since leaving China for Germany, having regained her health and even been able to recommence her artistic career.