He is 18 years old. He is a secondary school in form 5. He was shot with a bullet at close range by a Hong Kong police officer at a protest in Tsuen Wan. The police officer was armed; the boy wasn’t. He was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital in critical condition, and we wait. He could have been my student. The odds are low, but it is the thought coming into my mind. He could have been my student.
A week ago, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was surprised someone hasn’t been killed yet. Well, we are here, and what happens next will show how far we are willing to go on all sides.
The government’s side has been clear up to this point — ignore the protester’s demands, arrest as many of them as possible and try to shift all blame on them. The point is to divide the protesters, so they start fighting each other and eventually get smaller and smaller until there is nothing left. It is also a strategy to get the Hong Kong public to start blaming the protesters. It happened before during Occupy Central over five years ago. It is a plan they have used, and it worked. Up until now time has been on the government’s side.
This time is different. A Hong Konger may die directly from the actions of the police. There are rumors, stories, and myths about others but this is the first one — caught on film — which can be proven. While the leader of this city is in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China a teenage boy lies in a hospital bed because of her police and her refusal to acknowledge the demands of protesters. She is the leader of the government, chosen by the few but does not represent the city or its people.
There will be a press conference tonight or tomorrow. Ms Lam may even come to Hong Kong to deliver it. We in this city know what she will say — condemning violence on the protesters, condemning the protesters for breaking things and a call for more dialogue. I wonder what she will say about the boy. Will she acknowledge it? Will she say it is the protesters’ fault for getting shot dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and armed with an umbrella. The poor police officer is trained for combat, dressed in full body armor, a visor, a helmet, pepper spray, and a gun. It must have been the boy’s fault.
The gunshot didn’t happen in my neighborhood today, but who knows tomorrow or this weekend. It can happen anywhere and to anyone. We need to speak up and hold the police accountable for their actions.
Meanwhile, in a classroom somewhere in Hong Kong, I will be standing at the front, ready to teach my students about English. We don’t talk about politics since it is a primary school but still wonder if the kid was someone I taught and wonder if I will be here a few years later writing the same things.