Another one for the All Cops Are Bastards file.
This movie blew me away. Really powerful and moving.
This film follows the protests against the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong in 2019. For those that don’t know a whole lot about Hong Kong, the film does a really good job of explaining it in about 5 minutes, while the rest of film watches the reaction to the encroachment of authoritarian power unfold.
Because everyone now has a camera in their pocket which can stream images online in real time all across the world that never disappear, these protests might be the best documented ever. Spontaneous, pivotal moments in the struggle are all caught on camera because there is always someone rolling.
As well as contemporary footage, the film is comprised of interviews with a broad range of protestors. They range from 11 years old to 70, from every walk of life, farmers, students, business managers, mums and kids. There’s a wide range of opinions on how to protest, yet all are united in the cause. I’ve also never seen such efficient division of labour, with people splitting into different groups to service a need, and organising to switch whenever someone needed a break. It’s really incredible.
You have ‘parent-cars’, which Nobody is. (Almost everyone in this has their faces blurred, and is referred to by their nom-de-guerre, to protect their identity). Nobody is a 22-year-old student and his job is to get protestors home safe. It tells you something about the average age of a protestor that 22 is considered old enough to take on a care-taking role. While many protestors have the support of their parents, there are still plenty of parents who are scared for their kids and don’t want them attending rallies. So you’ll get young people attending actions, but who need a way to get home on time safely. That’s where the parent-cars come in, people whose job is to find safe ways in and out of action zones. Sometimes this is ferrying people on foot through alleyways, sometimes it is literally driving up and getting folk to hop in the back of your motor to take them home.
32-year old business manager Dad goes out to just make sure everyone is ok, as does Mum, another volunteer. They do everything from comforting shook up kids after they’ve been teargassed, to hiding them in safehouses and playing videogames with them when they need a break from the madness. We meet one of the medics, and it’s a 14-year-old schoolboy first-aider. You are in awe of the bravery of this young kid, rushing in to tend to the shot and wounded right beneath guns and clubs of the police. There are the sentries, some on the ground standing lookout, shouting police locations to the protestors, and the map team back in a safe house, co-ordinating reports over Telegram, figuring out where police are converging and how many, to alert people on the ground. You’ve got the elders, like 70-year-old Uncle Chen, who go out to try to de-escalate things with the police and protect the kids. And you’ve got the Valiants, those at the most dangerous end of things, taking direct action, and coming under attack from the cops.
And people can change depending on how they feel. If you get injured, fall back and help the sentries. If you learn first aid, join the medics. If you feel the need to be at the front of a particular action, let the Valiants show you how. Everybody in turn finding a way they can be most useful. I’m used to groups that cannae organise 6 people who all agree to pull together in the same direction, or where the division of labour is hard and fast, and leads to power-hording. It seems incredible to see 2 million people work together, successfully, across a year.
And all without a leader, or a party, or an orator to unite them. The cause unites them. And while they are organised, they are not an organisation. They are just people demonstrating for their human rights and democracy. It is so effective, because you cannot cut the head off the snake. The police don’t know who to strike at. Almost a third of the population takes up action against them, and there is no one they can assassinate or arrest to stop it. There is no one icon they can break down to make the others lose hope. The fight will not be over until the last one of the 2 million are in jail.
And you think, surely these kids are shitting it about going to jail? And some are scared, I mean, no one wants to go to jail. But as one teenager puts it, regarding the 10 year sentence for ‘rioting’, “I’ll be in my 20s when I get out”. They’ll still be young, still be angry, and all vow they will simply return to the fight upon release. The mettle of these motherfuckers.
What I also loved about the lack of factionalism is the constant emphasis on this as an action for the people, for human rights. This isn’t about get one side or another in power. This isn’t about our nationalism being better than their nationalism. This is not about some administrative district. It is for the people of Hong Kong that they fight. This is about a place which has enjoyed relatively good human rights and civil freedoms, understanding with complete clarity what they will lose if they don’t fight. Despite the horrific images of violence throughout, what finally broke me and left me in tears, was when a schoolteacher, who had been sitting listening to what her teenage pupils had done over the past year, braving teargas, treating the injured, stopping the illegal arrest and torture of other protestors, she was moved to tears, and she said to them, ‘I feel guilty for not doing more. I’m so grateful to you’, and the kid replies, “No worries, Hongkonger”.
So moving, a must-see. Free Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times.