This was a truly powerful film screened in Tunbridge Wells in April 2022.
The film shows real footage of more than one million people on the streets of Hong Kong protesting the introduction of the Extradition Bill about to be enacted against Hong Kong citizens whose only act was to upset the Chinese Communist State.
The spontaneous protest demonstrated how unpopular the proposed extradition law to mainland China was. Witnessed by the arbitrary arrest of three booksellers in Hong Kong who dared to sell banned publications. The people now called for the repeal of the extradition law as a breach of the Sino British Joint Declaration which guaranteed Hongkongers their freedoms for another 50 years from the handover of HK to China in 1997.
The crowds consisted of men, women, students as well as ordinary workers. There were peaceful ranks of protesters with banners and umbrellas just using their voice. As the numbers of protesters swelled, the main downtown districts of HK were filled with their chants for their five key demands: to withdraw the extradition bill; to stop labelling protesters as "rioters"; to drop charges against protesters; to conduct an independent inquiry into police behaviour; to implement genuine universal suffrage for both the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.
What started as peaceful protest soon became a standoff between the people and the police. More and more strong armed tactics were being used including the use of teargas, rubber bullets, water canon and eventually live fire. People were incensed and they went directly to the LegCo building where they broke into the main chamber causing damage to property.
There was no way to contain the crowds, so the police switched tactics. They used road blocks and vehicles in order to drive citizens off the road. In a police crackdown, they drove crowds into a subway station at Yuen Long where a white T-shirted team of vigilantes was released with long batons. People were corralled into subway trains and beaten. Many sustained serious injuries. The police who were waiting above the station had sealed off exits and did not come to their rescue. This only served to escalate street demonstrations. More people were beaten, some received horrific eye injuries as a result of rubber bullets; one youth was shot by police point blank. It was thought that others jumped off roofs of tall buildings because they were trying to escape police brutality.
Then what started as a student protest at HK Polytechnic University ended as a desperate 16 day siege. The police surrounded the University and blocked off all exits. Students barricaded themselves in and fought back with Molotov cocktails. Some tried to escape via the sewers but found no way out while others tried to get to the bridge by scaling the university walls. Trapped inside were 14 and 15 year old high school students too. Head Teachers from the schools negotiated their release. After they realised there was no alternative, hundreds of students surrendered but were taken into custody where they were held and charged. Some were given 10 year sentences but said they didn't regret their actions as they were young and would still be in their twenties when released.
One wondered how did the demonstrators organise on such a large scale, ostensibly without a leader, all throughout young protesters directed everything through use of social media. Acting as one, they called each other to "be like water". Seen from above, it was remarkable how crowds disappeared down side streets and reappeared on new major action points. Police were helpless as crowds just shifted from one area to another without a central organiser. Demonstrators supported each other through camaraderie and solidarity. They cried "liberate Hong Kong ; Revolution of our Times!" It was a truly courageous show of defiance to the largest autocracy in the world, which this generation of Hongkongers will never forget.