The following is a journal of a Hong Kong protestor during the 2019 Anti-ELAB movement (or known as Be-Water movement).
Translated from Chinese by Hazel Fok.
13 June 2019
[Babbling before going to bed] [Everything mentioned here happened in my dream]
I dreamt that I was in Admiralty, the main roads around me had been occupied. A group of people were looking out for each other, many of them looked like they were in high school. As soon as I saw it, it felt like I was transported back to 5 years ago, when dogs (referring to police) stood right in front of you, staring. I thought everything would be like 5 years ago, all over again, when dogs bit you as more people left later into the day. I saw it coming, only the beginning though, definitely not the end.
I dreamt that I began to feel unwell in the afternoon, my brain and body felt out of control. I felt that I would become a burden to others and thought that the dogs wouldn’t bite that soon, thus I went home to rest. However, as I wake from my slumber, the dogs had bitten, they bit hard as if they were trying to kill. Even though it all happened in my dream, I cried. What hurt me more was that the laughing high school kids I met in the morning had to face the reality so quickly. 5 years ago, I at least laughed for months before getting crashed by reality. I thought that this can last longer in view of the solidarity people have shown. Yet, I can’t help but felt disappointed. This could be the first time for these kids to experience a mass social movement, the first time for them to witness the solidarity amongst Hongkongers. They could be feeling empowering like us 5 years ago, yet they have been pushed into the abyss of horror within an afternoon. This is crueler and scarier than 5 years ago.
*5 years ago, in 2014, Umbrella movement took place in Hong Kong, with people occupying the street outside the Government Complex and other populated public areas for up to 79 days, demanding real universal suffrage for Hong Kong.
29 June 2019
[Babbling again] [I can’t stand it anymore]
Point no.1: We are losing, definitely. I haven’t won anything from the government, never believe in a phased victory. Yet, it is undeniable that we are improving. It is like we got a GPA of 1.5 in last semester and would be asked to quit university if we don’t get better than 1.5 this semester. And this semester, we indeed get a GPA of 2.0. We are from getting a first-class honour, and we are still a loser. Yet, it is a significant improvement from last time. We still have to stay in the uni and reach for better honour in the coming semesters. We shall admit our failure yet acknowledge our improvement simultaneously.
Point no.2: We are all exhausted. It has been 3 weeks of non-stop actions. It is incredibly exhausting even if we just took to the streets for 3 days a week. Make sure to rest if you are tired. Every army needs to rest, especially when we are not well-trained soldiers but simply normal citizens. Well, in fact, we could be worse than normal, for we sit in air-conditioned rooms every day. It is okay for us to pause and rest. Feeling tired physically is fine for we may simply need a night of good sleep, yet feeling tired mentally would be something livelong.
Point no.3: Don’t feel sorry for your fellow comrades for taking a rest. Solidarity is not about everyone forcing themselves every single day. We have shown our solidarity towards the government by having 2 million people on the streets, and we no longer need to stay this way. We shall come up with new, creative tactics to continue pressurizing the government. Many said that this is going to be a long battle, thus we don’t need everyone to risk their lives physically at this point, just as a runner wouldn’t run with full speed at the beginning of a marathon. If you feel like you can’t take it anymore, go get some rest and have faith that your comrades will have your back until you are well enough to go onto the battle field again. It is what solidarity means.
Point no.4: What our enemy is attempting to spread hopelessness, we shall always remain calm. Yes, we have been coming up with many weird, yet clever ideas yet still got plain out ignored. Yes, it is upsetting and hopeless, but we also need to control our own emotions so that these thoughts won’t corrode our hearts and brains. Just as I said, feeling tired and hopeless mentally can be a livelong consequence. Then what can we do? First of all, rest, whether is it singing karaoke, eating good food, going to the gym, playing basketball, reading or watching a movie. We need to let loose of ourselves so that we can return to the battle with full force. Secondly, if you are still capable, stop thinking that your endeavor was all in vain, acknowledge your effort and improvements. The only reason that we are still going now is because of our self-reflection in our times of hopelessness in the past. So, instead of pointing fingers at each other, go and think of something new and feasible.
Lastly, you never walk alone. We are all carry two people on our shoulders, and we are definitely aiming for the finishing line. Yet, I must say that I have a weak body, carrying two people takes all my energy already. If it is possible, I would really prefer when people walk along side with me instead of having me to carry them so that we can remind each other that this is not the end yet.
17 July 2019
Facebooked notified me that there was a live stream. I clicked and saw an artist doing a sharing session in Shatin New Town Plaza. What inspired me was not what the artist said, but his/her interaction with an auntie. The auntie said with sincere words and earnest wishes: “China is so vast and us so small. Is it worthy for youngsters to sacrifice like this? The bill has been suspended, is it still worthy of continuing the battle?”
What I am about to say would be messy for I haven’t organized my brief thoughts. Yet, this is my attempt of somewhat replying her.
Indeed, I was not a politically active person at all. I didn’t have prior experience to activism nor interest in politics at all because I hate the feeling of having to fight for what I deserve. This anti-extradition bill movement started on 9th June and I had no preparation for it. I was even playing mahjong on 5th June. Yet, on 9th June, a friend who was joking and playing mahjong with me a few days prior was arrested.
For the chain of events that followed, I hit rock bottom for I had no mental preparation for what was happening. I took to the street because it felt right, and I hardly think about any risk that came with it. In fact, by the end of June, I was so depressed that I had hoped for the movement to end. I thought of 1st July (the day of handover of Hong Kong to China) as the last chance for the radicals. If there are no elevated actions on 1st June, that was it and I would not take part anymore. Yet when the day actually came, I saw in the facebook live stream that some radical protestors were crashing the glass doors of the LegCo complex. And they started negotiating with some lawmakers as those lawmakers tried to stop them from breaking into the complex. I just got up and went without even eating my lunch as I heard the conversation over the computer. The movement can still go on, I thought. And Iwas going to support this team regardless of anything.
I need to apologize for not going into my main points. What is it about what the auntie said?
I still want to finish my story of July though, bare with me.
July 2019 is a month crazier than June 2019. Hongkonger have broken free from some sort of chain on 1st July, meanwhile police broke free from their chains on 7th July. I saw what was coming, the intensified police brutality. And as the fact of police brutality sank among the people, the people weren’t afraid; we are fearless and more powerful. Some friends said it would become more and more dangerous but I still feel so tranquil.
I was once afraid of being arrested or beaten. Yet, as July passes by, even though rationally I know that I shall avoid getting caught, I just don’t care anymore when I am at the protest grounds. All I can think of is that “I am doing the right thing.”
Everyone has their own baggage and no one want to risk it all, putting their freedom on a line. However, the world is and has always been very cruel — if we want something, we definitely have to pay a price for it (even though we can still end up with nothing). I went to the court listening of two prosecuted protestors a few days ago and couldn’t help but thinking that I could be one of them behind bars. Yes, none of us wants to sacrifice but some of us will. I don’t know how far my luck can take me, no one knows. So, is it worthy to sacrifice like this? I will reply: None of the sacrifice are for nothing. Until a certain time, glory to humanity is, perhaps, part of these necessary sacrifices. Even if these sacrifices don’t get much attention and are easily forgotten by history, I still believe in the intrinsic value of these sacrifices and the act of sacrificing. Some said that we are too weak to make any changes within a short period, perhaps we should just stop trying. Yet, if no one is taking the first step to do something, the change will never ever come.
I don’t know if a spark could indeed light the whole field on fire, yet I know that the spark was at least there.
1 August 2019
[Irregular updates] [emotional outbursts + documenting] [full of negativity] [scold me if you want]
It has been a few days since my last “game”, yet I still feel very much agitated now. I would like to apologize for those I have offended in the past few days, I didn’t mean it, sorry!
As you may know, I am playing the hardcore mode of the “game”. In this hardcore mode, I cannot be revived if I die — if I get caught by the monster, that’s the end of it. Generally, before the “game” of last Sunday, I was capable of managing the situation, whether it is close fights with monsters or biochemical attacks. Yet, last Sunday, it was completely insane. Everyone was super worried for the players and it was game-over for many players (49 in total). The silver lining is that these poor players at least still have some health, they retained their lives. It is just that they have lost their qualification as players.
The reason that I was so agitated and angry, then until now is simple — unlike most games I played before, I almost died, for more than once I would literally be dead if I walk one step closer. And it made me even angrier because I would never have me revenge — for it is not a physical enemy that tried to kill me (in that case I can still have a person to hunt down when I turn into a ghost), it was the tear gas canisters that targeted at my head (not just other players but passerbys too). Afterwards in online discussions, many claimed that the tear gas got stronger, yet I would like to hereby remind everyone that it is not the gas that kills but when the canister that hit flesh and explode. It was like I was the prey in a hunting game.
Maybe it is because I almost see death, I have many new epiphanies. An old saying goes like: “There are 3 phrases for a martial artist: Seeing yourself, seeing the world, seeing all beings.” I have experienced all three phrases.
Seeing myself: I planned to rest on Sunday indeed but since I promised a friend, I decided to go to the game — just as a bystander this time though. Yet, as I saw the monsters, I turned into a player again out of a sense of duty — if I feel capable of dealing with the monsters, why should I let other new players that probably have zero experience risk their lives? As soon as we started the game, arious life-and-death situation started beginning, yet surprisingly, I wasn’t too concerned with my own safety at that point. Even though I knew I am in huge danger, I wasn’t running away but telling those behind me to brace themselves and upgrade their gear. Indeed, at those moments, I could have died if the monsters decided to give me one more hit. Besides, I decided to pull out of the Sunday game after a few almost-death experiences. I myself didn’t want to leave, yet I recall how some people in my life would hate to have anything bad happened to me, and their will ultimately overrode my personal wish. In retrospect, all the decisions I made on Sunday weren’t about me at all but other people. I took time to reflect on my life afterwards, and I realize I never really live for myself at all.
Seeing the world: When death comes, we realize how little we are, just a speck of dust. I wonder if anyone share this thought with me: I haven’t died until now, am I indeed immortal? I used to have this thought when I was a kid, that was very arrogant and creative of me. Maybe because I am still young, I still think that I have a lot of time left which could be too optimistic for me. Yet, after my almost-death experience on Sunday, I realize that I, as a dust in the galaxy, don’t have control over my fate at all. I never thought these dangerous situations could happen to me at all and I was very lucky to have gotten saved by others. Scenes like these should only appear in movies, yet it happened to me, thrice within a night. The world is ridiculous and crazy, but my tiny existence is even more ridiculous.
Seeing all beings: My journey to the gate of hell and back has given me a lot of perspectives. As I mentioned, I was reminding others to gear up at the verge of death. In fact, when one is in a dangerous situation, one sees much more clearer — I was aware of every detail around me, like what gear everyone had, how some sitting aside had nothing, while most only had basic gear, and some players were standing tall giving out orders to other players. Everything was so clear, so clear. Yet, what was even clearer for me was that most players around me weren’t prepared at all for the battle with monsters. They were only here to support, but not as the warriors to fight monsters. When I told them to gear up, most of them were slow, perhaps because they thoughts it wouldn’t be too dangerous at that position and they didn’t realized that someone almost get killed by monsters beside them. Why, why, why would they put themselves in such a situation? I couldn’t tell and I sincerely hope that it was only because I was there that gave a reason for the monsters to start their attack. I know this sounds arrogant, but if this is not the case, it means that there is no longer anywhere safe in the battle ground, whoever happens to enter will have to be a warrior. I didn’t leave at that point because I don’t want to leave other in danger, I really wish to take all for the team if I can. But the reality is if I lose the game, there are others who will suffer for me. It has been a dilemma for me, bugging me for the past few days: Shall I continue the game and risk my life for other players, or pull off from the game for those who care about me? Maybe you will tell me to strike a balance. “Play safely,” you might say, yet I have to tell you that I’m not in control since the difficulty of the game has gone way higher, I can’t guarantee if I can leave the game in one piece next time.
Moreover, I watched Winter On Fire, a documentary about Ukraine, yesterday. You be honest, this movie hasn’t brought me positivity, rather a lot of negativity. It is because what I am seeing now is that meanwhile the monsters are upgrading and evolving at the speed similar to the movie, the players here aren’t evolving like those in the movie. You can disagree with me, but if you think we shall follow the path of the players in the movie, it is a stupid move because we will be paying much heavier price that those in the movie. Our game systems are completely different. Try asking yourself: Have many more players’ sacrifices (losing their qualification to play) are needed for you to join in the fight as a lead players? Will you ever be willing to do that? Many may have been numb to how players got disqualified after each round. “It is how we evolve”, they say, yet the truth is it is those who got disqualified that evolve and put their lives on a line. That’s not many people.
Maybe you will accuse me of being inhumane. Yet, if we truly want to be humane, we have to acknowledge how impossible and dangerous it is to turn even more radical like Ukraine. Every player is made of flesh and bones, and since the game has changed into hardcore mode, it no longer risk only their player qualification but their lives. Not just their time, career and future, but their lives. Yes, it will be great if we win the game because we can gain the treasure we want and that’s why we kept on fighting. Yet, these players, when hurt, are no longer part of a gamble, but actual lost and sacrifices.
In my previous post, I said: “Every sacrifice is worthy.” What I wish to say this time is that sacrifices cannot be undone once made. Those may seem like numbers and figures to you, like how many casualties, how many injured, yet please remember: All these numbers imply real people, flesh and bones. And eventually, maybe no one will remember their names at all. This is the cruel reality and I hope everyone will remember it.
“What do you want then?”, you may ask. I will say — we shall try to win with whatever alternative ways. “No pain, no gain.” Even if one use alternation means, one may still pay a high price, yet it is always better than losing lives.
If you have the patience to read all my words, I would like to urge you to go on strike.
13 September 2019
[Mid-autumn festival babbling]
Many asked me if I felt disappointed lately, I usually replied: “Things still need to be done.” Yes, I am exhausted and disappointed. Just look at the situation of the student strike, it seemed like it would be successfully, yet the classrooms have been very full and people even got time to sit in more classes. I would be joking if I tell you I am hopeful, aren’t I?
In the early stage of the student strike, some students who didn’t participate said that they were discouraged by mean words from those who were striking and therefore decided not to join in the student strike. I laughed when I heard what he said. Okay, I can’t scold you for not joining, then what if I beg you now?
I felt like an idiot for the past few days — we did everything to raise attention from others. Yesterday, I was even a leftard. My friend decided to kneel to beg people to join us on the student strike and others confused us as going on a hunger strike. Of course, I thought of the action of kneeling as a funny thing in the first place, yet when my friend was actually kneeling, I suddenly wanted to cry. How can we even call ourselves “rioters’ university”? I joined him eventually, we went kneeling and hunger striking because “we come and go as one”*. I almost cried when I announced the names of the protestors who committed suicide. And you are asking me whether I am sad?
Still, I am doing what I need to do for this is the nature of activism. This is supposed to be a battle with one’s emotions because one will always feel hopeless and disappointed. Happy activism is always a lie because even if there’s happiness, those would only be joke and dark humor created for the purpose of pain killing. Fighting means pain and suffering. Yet, if I choose to stop because a bit of suffering, is that even a worthy battle to begin with? To be part of a movement means a battle within yourself, one will only experience more and more pain, and this pain is there to stop you down. Therefore, to be politically active entails a battle within the psychological dimension of an individual too. Let’s remind ourselves what we have been through: On 9 June, Chief Executive Carrie announced that the extradition bill will not be withdrawn after the a million-strong demonstration, wasn’t that depressing? On 12 June, we have been shot by rubber bullets, wasn’t that depressing? On 21 July, we got beaten up by triad, wasn’t that depressing? Depressing things are happening at daily now, aren’t you depressed? The reason that we are still here is because we managed to deal with these negativities, and even transform them into our source of energy. We believe in our ways and make new attempts. Yes, we are human beings, we aren’t police nor high officials, we are capable of managing our own emotions and retain the ability to think. Yet, our emotional capability ultimately still has a limit, we can’t really deal with indefinite sufferings but, for me, I will not stop before attaining that limit. We still have a long way to go, and I am continuing. I will give me all and rest when necessary.
Your enemies try to oppose you by making you suffer, meanwhile you claimed that you are surrendering because of unbearable suffering, telling me “Oh! It is hopeless, no one will boycott classes and join the student strike. Nothing is useful and the movement has ended.” Do you even know what you are doing? Do you think that everything will be useful without paying any effort and actually expect everything to do as you want? I am telling you — you haven’t even done your part. You are enjoying your normal life, singing karaoke, going to class, watching movie while claiming yourself as an activist. Are you joking? It doesn’t matter if you think student strike is useful, but you shall go and do something useful in your opinions, instead of saying “student strike is useless”.
Many people still think in a very utilitarian way, classifying actions as “useful” and “useless” and laughing at others for doing “useless” stuff. Yet, the past two weeks of student strike have taught me that even if you think something is stupid and useless, what you have done is already there. When you influence one person, that’s one more player in the team. Practicing martial arts, singing songs, talking to non-local students etc. can seem very dumb, yet if one person listened to you, that’s the purpose of this whole dumb thing. As long as you feel like it is useful, do it! And we shall all do our part in this movement.
Lastly, even though student strike failed miserably, this is not the only tactic in this movement, and we need not over emphasize this failure. Maybe you have spent a lot of time and effort in the past two weeks which has made you depressed, but it is time for you to detach from your own point of view and look at the bigger picture — many are still attempting to do other things outside of the university and this movement is still on-going.
Happy mid-autumn festival.
I wish for glory and safety to Hong Kong.
*We come and go as one: a famous quote from the movement that signify the collectivity and solidarity amongst protestors in this movement. It was created on 1 July 2019, when over 100 protestors returned to the occupied LegCo Complex right before the time for police clearance action to bring the 4 protestors who decided to stay to safety.