Singaporean filmmaker Lynn Lee has said that the anti-China extradition protesters in Hong Kong looked out for her and made her feel safe as she documented the protests. In a Facebook post published on Wednesday (3 July), Ms Lee shared her experience in response to those who asked her about the “violence” that erupted on Monday, 1 July.
Ms Lee said that while the protestors did storm the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (LegCo), broke windows and glass, dismantled metal barriers and vandalised public property, she still did not feel unsafe. She wrote: “Were they “violent”? I suppose so. But did I feel unsafe? No.”
Noting that the young protesters have never let her feel unsafe and instead went out of their way to care for her, Ms Lee recounted:
“The truth is – and I am sure many of my fellow journalists will agree – I have never felt unsafe among these young protestors. If anything, they go out of their way to take care of each other, and of us.
“Several times on Monday, they held my camera as I tried to scramble over barriers. They repeatedly offered me goggles and water. They nagged me to stay safe. In the evening, as I sat, exhausted, outside Civic Square, a young man came up to me with a tray of hotdogs and told me to take one. Later, inside Legco, someone else passed around a bag of soft drinks.”
Asserting that the young protesters are “not the irrational mob Carrie Lam would have you think they are,” Ms Lee continued:
“Yes, they are angry. But their rage is aimed at a government that won’t listen, at heavily armed police, and yesterday, at a building. And even then, they were careful in deciding what to destroy and vandalise – putting up signs to remind people not to touch antiques, or steal from the cafeteria.”
She added that the events of 12 June was much more violent than the events of 1 July, when the police used teargas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, pepper spray and brute force against those storming Legco and the peaceful protestors, church groups and journalists who had nothing to do with the Legco incident. Ms Lee shared:
“If Monday’s events were “violent”, then what happened on June 12 was many times worse. Yes, some protestors were trying to storm Legco, and yes, police were justified in trying to stop them. But they did way more than that. Teargas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, pepper spray.
“The rest of us – journalists, church groups singing hymns, students who were nowhere near the Legco forecourt, academics on a hunger strike, medics manning first aid stations – were all seen as fair game. Police beat up protestors, fired at a crowd with literally nowhere to run, threw a teargas canister into a train station, caused a man’s heart to stop beating.”
Ms Lee said that she has felt unsafe in Hong Kong – when we was at the pro-police rally on 30 June. She said: “Supporters, who’d presumably shown up to condemn “violence”, attacked a lawmaker, harassed journalists and accused anyone foreign of being “CIA agents”.
“I was shoved and verbally abused by a woman and an older man who insisted on following me around with his phone. A photographer had to be escorted away by police after a crowd surrounded him and a man poured water on his camera.”
While she is unsure if she agrees with the protesters’ actions, Ms Lee said that she understands why they acted the way they did. She concluded:
“I don’t know if I agree with what the protestors did. But I think I understand why. They’ve asked politely, demonstrated peacefully, disobeyed civilly, but the government won’t listen. Young people are so desperate, they’re killing themselves.
“On Monday, protestors on the frontlines said they knew they faced long jail sentences if they were caught. They were also very aware of the threat of brutal police action. And yet they went ahead anyway.
“Some people are calling the break-in a miscalculation, a stupid misstep. Maybe so, maybe not. But it is more important to ask why it happened. And after that, to ask if vandalising a building is worse than attacking unarmed human beings.
“Because if it’s not, Carrie Lam should also be holding press conferences condemning the police and their supporters.”