24 October 2016
Society may not be able to accept the youngsters' behavior but it has an obligation to understand why they did what they did. Photo: Reuters
Society may not be able to accept the youngsters' behavior but it has an obligation to understand why they did what they did. Photo: Reuters

A ‘rioter’ is born in Mong Kok

I saw a young friend of mine appear in a TV news report about the Mong Kok clashes on the second day of the Lunar New Year.

Asked what happened to them that night, his girlfriend replied:

“It was like the Exodus. I almost got hit twice by a baton when I was simply giving a lift to someone who had fallen down. I managed to grab the end of the baton, and for a split second I thought of pulling it out of the policeman’s grasp. However, I let go of it in the end.

“We had no intention of causing trouble. We had finished meeting relatives in Tsim Sha Tsui East, but our uncle was in such a happy mood and he wanted us to have a few drinks in Mong Kok.

“My boyfriend and I didn’t want to come along, but when we saw the night market, we thought it might be a good idea to try some snacks offered by street hawkers and see if we still had room for a few drinks after that.

“Well, instead of enjoying street food, we were first pushed by shields, attacked by pepper spray and got beaten up. We then heard warning shots but we could not leave as we were surrounded. You got beaten up regardless of whether you were leaving or staying.

“What I did that night was to help others. You’d got to resist in order to free yourself from being beaten up. That’s why my boyfriend dashed out. He burst into tears out of extreme rage because the geared-up officer was holding a gun targeting the ‘rioters’ who happened to be just there.

“Under no circumstances should people set fire on things or throw objects. However, such resistance happened only because people had been driven into a tight corner.

“Who would ever want to engage in a life-or-death struggle during the Lunar New Year, especially on the very first day, really? We managed to survive and return home, and we felt we really needed a shower.

“He was in so much pain when the shower went down on his body. He couldn’t help squatting down and curling himself up. I dried him gently with kitchen paper. At that moment I wondered how many people out there would cry angry tears and come forward to help a stranger at whom a gun was pointed?

“I think he is my Mr. Right.

“Many people could go elsewhere. We had nowhere else to go but here.”

Standing in front of you is a 22-year-old youngster — a body of flesh and bones.

He is a vivid figure that provides you a fresh perspective that is different from what the media or the government has been telling you about the Mong Kok clashes.

He was indignant because the police drew their guns at people. He was standing among the “rioters” because he could not find an exit. “We have nowhere else to go but here” — Hong Kong.

Society may not be able to accept their behavior but it has an obligation to understand why they did what they did.

If we ignore their explanations and the reasons for their actions, our community would only be torn further apart.

However, the SAR government issued a statement that it does not consider it necessary to set up an independent commission of inquiry, headed by a judge, to look into the incident.

In other words, the authorities themselves were under the impression that they could turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to social issues, that law enforcement and police violence could resolve the problems.

It is necessary to set up an independent commission of inquiry to ferret out the truth and the causes of the clashes.

Since the government has decided to shrug it off, non-governmental organizations might take up the responsibility of conducting the investigation.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 18.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist; art, culture and food critic

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