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Hong Kong’s ‘death fighters’: young protesters with nothing to lose Hong Kong’s ‘death fighters’: young protesters with nothing to lose
(12 days later)
As midnight approached on Monday, four protesters stood their ground inside the battered interior of Hong Kong’s legislative council (LegCo) building where they had barged in a few hours earlier. Surrounded by graffiti and chaos, they insisted on waiting until the police came to arrest them.As midnight approached on Monday, four protesters stood their ground inside the battered interior of Hong Kong’s legislative council (LegCo) building where they had barged in a few hours earlier. Surrounded by graffiti and chaos, they insisted on waiting until the police came to arrest them.
“Our action might not be useful but it is symbolic,” one young father told a reporter in video footage. “We know we might get eight or 10 years for doing this, but I grew up here, I love the freedoms and the dignified life and I don’t want to lose them.”“Our action might not be useful but it is symbolic,” one young father told a reporter in video footage. “We know we might get eight or 10 years for doing this, but I grew up here, I love the freedoms and the dignified life and I don’t want to lose them.”
Suddenly, dozens of other protesters rushed into the chamber, shouting: “Let’s leave together!”, grabbed the four they had named “the death fighters” and frogmarched them away.Suddenly, dozens of other protesters rushed into the chamber, shouting: “Let’s leave together!”, grabbed the four they had named “the death fighters” and frogmarched them away.
Hong Kong protests: city divided over storming of legislatureHong Kong protests: city divided over storming of legislature
“If they don’t go, we don’t go,” a young woman said. “We’re all afraid, but we are more afraid that we won’t see those four again.”“If they don’t go, we don’t go,” a young woman said. “We’re all afraid, but we are more afraid that we won’t see those four again.”
Emotions have been running high in Hong Kong over the past month during its biggest political crisis in decades. Millions have thronged the streets to protest against a proposed law allowing for the extradition of individuals to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist party.Emotions have been running high in Hong Kong over the past month during its biggest political crisis in decades. Millions have thronged the streets to protest against a proposed law allowing for the extradition of individuals to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist party.
The protests forced the government to suspend the bill and its leader, Carrie Lam, apologisedfor the crisis that had engulfed the city, but protesters said they wanted more. They demand that the government fully withdraw the bill, release all those arrested in previous protests and launch an investigation into the police’s use of force on 12 June, when they used teargas, rubber bullets and truncheons on largely peaceful crowds.The protests forced the government to suspend the bill and its leader, Carrie Lam, apologisedfor the crisis that had engulfed the city, but protesters said they wanted more. They demand that the government fully withdraw the bill, release all those arrested in previous protests and launch an investigation into the police’s use of force on 12 June, when they used teargas, rubber bullets and truncheons on largely peaceful crowds.
Tensions erupted on Monday, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule, when hundreds of angry protesters stormed and vandalised the Hong Kong’s legislature. Police fired teargas after midnight to disperse them.Tensions erupted on Monday, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule, when hundreds of angry protesters stormed and vandalised the Hong Kong’s legislature. Police fired teargas after midnight to disperse them.
After police cleared the site, they immediately began to collect evidence against protesters in the early hours of Tuesday. Local media reported that police had stopped many vehicles to check passengers’ identity.After police cleared the site, they immediately began to collect evidence against protesters in the early hours of Tuesday. Local media reported that police had stopped many vehicles to check passengers’ identity.
‘We have utterly lost hope in this place’‘We have utterly lost hope in this place’
Beijing will not rest until it controls Hong Kong. We must keep fighting | Joshua Wong and Johnson YeungBeijing will not rest until it controls Hong Kong. We must keep fighting | Joshua Wong and Johnson Yeung
A number of young protesters said the storming of parliament was a symbolic act of defiance against a government and political system they had little say in. Hong Kong’s leader is not elected by ordinary voters but by a committee accountable to Beijing. Only half of the 70-seat legislature is directly elected, while the other 35 seats are occupied by mostly pro-establishment figures from corporate and special interest groups.A number of young protesters said the storming of parliament was a symbolic act of defiance against a government and political system they had little say in. Hong Kong’s leader is not elected by ordinary voters but by a committee accountable to Beijing. Only half of the 70-seat legislature is directly elected, while the other 35 seats are occupied by mostly pro-establishment figures from corporate and special interest groups.
Young people also said it was a sense of hopelessness that had driven them to desperation, as the government continued to fail to respond to their political demands.Young people also said it was a sense of hopelessness that had driven them to desperation, as the government continued to fail to respond to their political demands.
“Actually we are really afraid of being arrested, but we want to let the world and the government know that we won’t give in so easily,” said a man in his 20s who entered the parliament building on Monday night. He did not want to identified.“Actually we are really afraid of being arrested, but we want to let the world and the government know that we won’t give in so easily,” said a man in his 20s who entered the parliament building on Monday night. He did not want to identified.
The protests were triggered by a controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the Communist party controls the courts, but have since evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.The protests were triggered by a controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the Communist party controls the courts, but have since evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.
Public anger – fuelled by the aggressive tactics used by the police against demonstrators – has collided with years of frustration over worsening inequality and the cost of living in one of the world's most expensive, densely populated cities.Public anger – fuelled by the aggressive tactics used by the police against demonstrators – has collided with years of frustration over worsening inequality and the cost of living in one of the world's most expensive, densely populated cities.
The protest movement was given fresh impetus on 21 July when gangs of men attacked protesters and commuters at a mass transit station – while authorities seemingly did little to intervene. The protest movement was given fresh impetus on 21 July when gangs of men attacked protesters and commuters at a mass transit station – while authorities seemingly did little to intervene. 
Underlying the movement is a push for full democracy in the city, whose leader is chosen by a committee dominated by a pro-Beijing establishment rather than by direct elections.Underlying the movement is a push for full democracy in the city, whose leader is chosen by a committee dominated by a pro-Beijing establishment rather than by direct elections.
Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until their core demands are met, such as the resignation of the city's leader, Carrie Lam, an independent inquiry into police tactics, an amnesty for those arrested and a permanent withdrawal of the bill. Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until their core demands are met, such as the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, an independent inquiry into police tactics, an amnesty for those arrested and a permanent withdrawal of the bill.
Hongkongers have seen Beijing’s influence grow in recent years, as activists have been jailed and pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from running or holding office. Independent booksellers have disappeared from the city, before reappearing in mainland China facing charges. Beijing’s influence over Hong Kong has grown in recent years, as activists have been jailed and pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from running or holding office. Independent booksellers have disappeared from the city, before reappearing in mainland China facing charges.
Under the terms of the agreement by which the former British colony was returned to Chinese control in 1997, the semi-autonomous region was meant to maintain a “high degree of autonomy” through an independent judiciary, a free press and an open market economy, a framework known as “one country, two systems”.Under the terms of the agreement by which the former British colony was returned to Chinese control in 1997, the semi-autonomous region was meant to maintain a “high degree of autonomy” through an independent judiciary, a free press and an open market economy, a framework known as “one country, two systems”.
The extradition bill was seen as an attempt to undermine this and to give Beijing the ability to try pro-democracy activists under the judicial system of the mainland.The extradition bill was seen as an attempt to undermine this and to give Beijing the ability to try pro-democracy activists under the judicial system of the mainland.
Lam has shown no sign of backing down beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill, while Beijing has issued increasingly shrill condemnations but has left it to the city's semi-autonomous government to deal with the situation. Meanwhile police have violently clashed directly with protesters, repeatedly firing teargas and rubber bullets.Lam has shown no sign of backing down beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill, while Beijing has issued increasingly shrill condemnations but has left it to the city's semi-autonomous government to deal with the situation. Meanwhile police have violently clashed directly with protesters, repeatedly firing teargas and rubber bullets.
Beijing has ramped up its accusations that foreign countries are “fanning the fire” of unrest in the city. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has ordered the US to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form”.Beijing has ramped up its accusations that foreign countries are “fanning the fire” of unrest in the city. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has ordered the US to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form”.
Lily Kuo and Verna Yu in Hong KongLily Kuo and Verna Yu in Hong Kong
Protesters who barged into the legislative council building graffitied political slogans on walls, spraypainted Hong Kong’s official emblem inside the chamber and blacked out the faces of pro-Beijing LegCo presidents’ portraits. Among the graffiti on the wall, one said: “People will rise up when the authorities pushed them to the brink.” A black banner displayed at the front of the chamber read: “There are no rioters, only violent regimes.” A British colonial-era flag was also put up by the protesters.Protesters who barged into the legislative council building graffitied political slogans on walls, spraypainted Hong Kong’s official emblem inside the chamber and blacked out the faces of pro-Beijing LegCo presidents’ portraits. Among the graffiti on the wall, one said: “People will rise up when the authorities pushed them to the brink.” A black banner displayed at the front of the chamber read: “There are no rioters, only violent regimes.” A British colonial-era flag was also put up by the protesters.
Others messages scrawled on the walls demanded the government implement universal suffrage, withdraw the extradition bill, refrain from calling the 12 June protest a riot, drop charges against protesters and investigate alleged police brutality.Others messages scrawled on the walls demanded the government implement universal suffrage, withdraw the extradition bill, refrain from calling the 12 June protest a riot, drop charges against protesters and investigate alleged police brutality.
“The spraypainting was meant to be an insult to the government and the legislative system,” said the young man, insisting that protesters had been making a political statement but had not looted the place. He said he had left money for drinks he took and urged others not to wreck interior decorations.“The spraypainting was meant to be an insult to the government and the legislative system,” said the young man, insisting that protesters had been making a political statement but had not looted the place. He said he had left money for drinks he took and urged others not to wreck interior decorations.
“Why did we need to escalate our actions? Because there is so much anger and dissatisfaction. We’ve given them deadlines for our demands again and again. So many people died already and the government still won’t respond,” he said.“Why did we need to escalate our actions? Because there is so much anger and dissatisfaction. We’ve given them deadlines for our demands again and again. So many people died already and the government still won’t respond,” he said.
Most of the protesters interviewed by the Guardian said they were incensed by the government’s callousness for failing to respond to the recent deaths of three people, including a 21-year-old student, who killed themselves after leaving behind messages in protest to the extradition law.Most of the protesters interviewed by the Guardian said they were incensed by the government’s callousness for failing to respond to the recent deaths of three people, including a 21-year-old student, who killed themselves after leaving behind messages in protest to the extradition law.
“Everything that has happened is the result of the government ignoring us – they asked for it,” another young man said. “If we don’t come out, Hong Kong will collapse!”“Everything that has happened is the result of the government ignoring us – they asked for it,” another young man said. “If we don’t come out, Hong Kong will collapse!”
Another demonstrator who had entered the building said: “We all know that the rioting charge carries 10 years in jail, but why did we still do it? It’s because we have utterly lost hope in this place.”Another demonstrator who had entered the building said: “We all know that the rioting charge carries 10 years in jail, but why did we still do it? It’s because we have utterly lost hope in this place.”
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