It’s been more than 4 months since the first anti-extradition demonstration took place in Hong Kong, and young people continue their fight for freedom on the frontline of every demonstration. This is the heart-wrenching story of a 15-year-old protester who vows to fight on despite being banished from home by his pro-government parents.
At 3 a.m., I received a call from a friend who saw a boy sleeping on a long bench inside a housing complex. My first instinct was that this child might need help. I immediately rushed to him with some clothes and a towel. The boy was wearing a shirt and shorts and was using his arms as a pillow.
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As I approached him, he woke up and told me: “My parents added a lock to the steel gate so I can’t enter the house with my key. I have to spend the night on the street and go to school during the day.”
He shared with me stories of his fellow protesters. “I wanted to be a paramedic. In mid-July, when tear gas was deployed, a fellow protester requested me to wash his eyes. I was very happy to help him.” To prove this to me, the boy opened up his backpack and displayed a few medical supplies inside that he bought with his own money.
The boy told me: “During the summer break, I could only afford to eat one meal a day; after the summer break, I eat lunch offered at school every day, but there might not be dinner. My pro-government parents have cut off my allowance since the summer break, but my sister who is two years older and works at a part-time job would give me US$5 from time to time which I use for food.”
How the boy became a protester
The boy explained that the 721 incident was a “revolutionary factor” that propelled him from his role as a volunteer paramedic to a front-line protester. He recounted every detail of fighting on the frontline. “Despite injury on my hand, I managed to grab and rescue fellow protesters from the hands of the police.”
At dawn, I invited the boy to have breakfast with me. In a crowded restaurant, he looked uncomfortable. When I asked him to order, he kept whispering: “No need, I eat very little, if you could share a piece of bread with me that will do.” I ordered a full meal for him, hoping that the breakfast would make him feel better. When his food came, I told him: “You eat first, don’t wait for me!” No matter what I said, the boy still insisted on waiting for my order so that we could eat together. I could see that he was very polite and respected his elders.
I encouraged him to eat more, but the boy responded: “I only eat one meal a day so that my stomach is used to a small amount of food. Today’s breakfast is very rich but unfortunately, I cannot keep the remainder for dinner.”
After breakfast, I walked the boy to school. He turned his head back several times to wave goodbye until his lonely figure disappeared from my view.
A few days later after another major protest, the boy had no place to sleep again but on the streets. I arranged a temporary place for him to sleep. That night, I watched him cover himself with a blanket until he fell asleep. He looked anxious in his sleep, with both hands clutching the blanket and his body curled up. His eyebrows were tightly knitted as if he was having a nightmare.
One day, I lost contact with him. I worried that something bad had happened to him and my instinct was right, as his name was on a police arrest list.
I immediately contacted a lawyer for assistance. In the meantime, my mind ran wild thinking of police brutality and if he was violently mishandled by the police as they did to other protesters. I thought to myself: “Can a 15-year-old child withstand the mental torture of the police? Will he be able to get out unharmed?”
“I got out, but I will continue fighting!” the boy cried over the phone after bail was posted, and he called to inform me that he was safe. Considering the two criminal charges he was charged with, I tried to think of ways to support him so that he wouldn’t feel alone.
After the boy calmed down, he told me about his vow for Hong Kong: “I will not stop fighting just because of criminal charges. I will take advantage of my youth to stop totalitarianism from swallowing up Hong Kong. Even more criminal charges will not deter my resolve. Hong Kong has loved me for 15 years and I will trade my next 15 years for Hong Kong. I hope when I complete my prison term at the age of 30, I will still have my Hong Kong back. I will never bow down.”
Children express their love for Hong Kong in their own ways. They are more direct and profound than adults. They are willing to sacrifice themselves to protect others. How many more children will have to shoulder this responsibility that belongs to adults? How long do we have to wait and how many tears must we shed to gain the courage that our children have shown us?
Translated by Chua BC and edited by Angela
Source: Secret China