Behind Hong Kong’s Protesters, an Army of Volunteer Pastors, Doctors and Artists

Away from the front lines, volunteer groups composed of retirees, pastors and housewives quietly aid the anti-government demonstrators.

Comments: 66

  1. But who does the financing?

  2. @ARL The million dollar question!

  3. @ARL article says crowdfunding, and also that there are wealthy people who don't want to be identified

  4. @ARL @ARL why did not you question the millions dollars supporting the parties which are Pro Beijing / HKSAR government when they campaign elections. A paint drawn by Zhang, Xiaoming, the director of Liaison Office of the Central People' s Governmenr in HKG sold worth millions. Was it ethic or this Chinese style works for the people who support the CCP? Since 2014 Umbrella Movement, CY Leung pointed out foreign force being "black Hand ", five years passed, he could not find out the evidence. Knowing the chinese history since 1949, from Mao till the leader now,conspiracy theories have been used during the power struggles. Liu, Shaoqi;Pend Dehuai were all the victims.

  5. I fear for the safety of those actually named. I'll just hope I'm being TOO paranoid. Best wishes to them.

  6. “Although actions like setting the man on fire risk eroding support, the protest movement so far has enjoyed broad backing among Hong Kong’s seven million people.” There is something seriously wrong with the way the author describes such violent acts against another human being. The victim has no face, no name, the incident is not worth looking further into, and its only significance is that it might erode support. NYT has consistently ignored the much darker side of the protests: the vandalism, targeting of shops and people who are seen as sympathetic to the Govt, trashing offices of professors who disagreed with them, beating up fellow students from China, now setting somebody on fire just for arguing with the protestors. Have the peaceful protestors stood up and condemned these violent actions? No, because many of them think it’s justified. But then where is the line that should not be crossed? To the author and many protestors, it seems that setting somebody on fire is just a tactical mistake that may erode support, rather than an appalling act that requires the strongest condemnation and deep soul searching as to how such acts could originate from their midst.

  7. @Leto No battle, no matter how righteous, has ever been fought cleanly. We in the States are only now hearing about how our troops in post WWII Europe abused women in the countries they occupied. NATO troops have been similarly implicated in supporting human trafficking. Fighting tyranny, no matter how noble the cause, between countries or on the streets, in Hong Kong or Portland Oregon, is never without the casualties of innocents. Is the right answer to stand by in the face injustice? Is that not a surrender to tyranny when in every country there are those eager to suppress human rights and willing to kill for profit? No war is good war. But in the absence of defense, people will endure only the rule of despots.

  8. @Chickpea Soviet Red Army raped Chinese women while they entered the three provinces in North eastern mainland China in August, 1945 after Nazi had collapsed. Going going through history, some inclined to force when they frustrated. However, should the people movement be blamed as long as the people live in democratic countries and stand above the point of ethic

  9. @Leto 1) The targeted shops that are being vandalized, if you know notice, are owned by giant monopoly corporation that tie to China, long taking advantages of people in Hong Kong and killing small businesses. 2) If you really read news from a few more angles, you will find those Chinese student are the one initiate hate speeches, destroy public properties (yes, posters around university campus are deemed public properties), pull out knife to harass others. 3) The fire being set on the man is a tragedy. Will not argue if proven the fact he got burned by others. 4) Last, encourage you to understand the "violent" is majority aiming "objects", things in the stores are never got stolen. The turning point of violence became more dangerous is due to many imprisoned protestors were mysteriously found dead, titled with suicide and also rape cases that happened while imprisoned are rising to the surface. You are enjoying freedom that you possibly do not know and Hong Kong people are fighting for it, with their blood and soul. Freedom is not free.

  10. It's good to know that Pastor Joe Pao is playing the peacemaker in Hong Kong and telling the police to exercise self-restraint. Did he and other volunteers like him try to make any attempts to send the same message to the protesters to respect all property and that all men are brothers even the police? If not, then his motive as a peacemaker is highly suspect. It's also good to know that the NYT has provided such thorough and informative coverage of the Hong Kong protest where 2 people have been shot, but when it comes to the protest in Baghdad last month where 100 protesters have been shot and killed, we barely get any.

  11. @Michael Most of the property damages are directed towards the Maxim group, which owns most of the restaurants and cafes in the city including Starbucks. The daughter of the founder of the Maxim group went to United Nation to badmouth the young protesters. She also incited hatred in Mainland TV interviews to "give up" HK youngsters. The second targets are shops owned by members of the alleged local gangster who chopped up protesters. Property damages should not be condoned, but with this background, one should show some sympathy. The young people of HK is currently under dire situations with brutal beatings and arbitrary arrests by the police on a daily basis. But so far, the protesters have not looted properties, not a single cent being stolen.

  12. @Michael To you second point Michael, whataboutism is not a strong point. NYT has historically had more correspondents on the ground in Hong Kong, it being an international english speaking cultural and financial hub. It goes without saying that the more journalists you have in an area, the more will be reported on.

  13. Unfortunately, there is no one to negotiate with and no one with an actual plan. The British handed over Sovereign rights to China conditionally however irrevocably. Bejing will watch and do nothing overtly. The Administrative Local power is not the Sovern and cannot do anything towards democracy or autonomy because they are not the legal authority recognized by the United Nations. The protestors (right or wrong) are fighting a ghost located in Bejing. The protest are essentially a rebuke of Britain that wants nothing to with the upheaval. There is likewise no one that the protesters might claim victory about or surrender to. It is an unwinnable discord without an outlet or means of success. It is at best just civil disorder demanding special status and treatment from Bejing who claims that the terms and conditions of the accord are and will continue to be met (as long as the "One China" mantra remains).

  14. Faith in humanity restored

  15. At this point the legitimacy of the entire protest should be called into question, i.e., they become violent rioters and terrorists, even though in the western media they are still called democratic protesters. Their goal now seems to ramp up the anti-China violence to provoke the Chinese to direct interference into HK. They are begging for June 4/89 type of event in HK. The fundamental problem with HK's governmental system is the foreign interference, by US, UK and Taiwan, who are eager to score political points on China, and thus help themselves in their domestic elections.

  16. @Bill Whitehead @Bill Whitehead did you watch the police beating the residents in their apartment ? Police wear mask and no identity Number while they use excessive force so who should be blamed terrorists?

  17. @Bill Whitehead it's not about the legitimacy of the protest. The bigger picture is that the protesters are fighting for their freedom now in 2019 because what's the point of being quiet and subservient waiting for 2047 when Hong Kong's autonomy will end? I think the younger people of Hong Kong know that this is the endgame and they're prepared to die for their freedom. Also, Hong Kong will not be begging for any foreign interference especially not from the UK which negotiated the autonomy deal with China in the first place.

  18. Hong Kong wants to divorce China. They have irreconcilable differences. Hong Kong has 3 decades of autonomy guaranteed by China and witnessed by Margaret Thatcher. The people of Hong Kong are fighting for freedom. The people in America are not. Americans are in no position to judge.

  19. And will the NYT write an article about the mothers, fathers, teachers, workers, and artists who support the government and condemn the burning of human beings and wanton destruction of property? Somehow I don't think so.

  20. @Michael And how about the tired and harassed police force, the soldiers exercising in their barracks, the security agents.. it just doesn't capture people's imagination and aspirations the same way.

  21. @Michael I wouldn’t even have to say “support the government”. One does not need to support the government in order to be against the violence, chaos, and senselessness of these rioters and hooligans who are destroying Hong Kong for everyone else, and using violence to silence any opposing voices.

  22. So stand with protesters and encourage them to set up more fire?

  23. @Eric To details the causes of triggering violence not mean to support setting fire. While you blame the people, did you agree with the excessive force the police have taken police since June 12? The Hong Kong Police and the government have not listened to the people for years since 2014 or even earlier.

  24. @Eric why not?

  25. And we need to do our part as well. Especially today on Veterans Day we need to demonstrate that we also support these kids and that our support will not wane but will only grow more stronger as Beijing escalates the situation. Liberal democracy is as revolutionary and fragile today as it was 200 years ago.

  26. Other than issue some standard statements, Beijing has literally done nothing. Everything that happened is on the hands of HK rioters and police.

  27. It can be counter productive for the US government to 'help', but if we had a normal President, he and his staff could work the issue quietly. These young and older people have great courage, they know the Chinese Government, what they are capable of, yet every day go out to protest. We can only wish them well.

  28. The larger narrative, logic, and emotional resonance driving this decentralized network of millions of people are unclear to me -- including the average age (I'm guessing the ones actually driving the discussion online are quite young 16-28), other demographical information, nexus of power, etc. I'm sure this type of information is accessible, with translations from Hong Kong websites and apps, while preserving identities/if it is not anonymous already. Social movements in 2019 often appear to come accompanied with repeating words, images, etc circulated online. It is perhaps in our best interest to understand this encyclopedia of knowledge as best as possible. Even with that huge blind spot, this is incredibly complex, however what is certain is that there is firm precedence historically of the effectiveness of non-violent vs violent protest. The latter being unsustainable. The decentralized structure adds another element of chaos. Either there is a pivot, or the likelihood increases each day of an escalation of violence, leading to a crackdown, and concerted repression. This cannot be good for either side.

  29. @Tessa the larger narrative comes from 1997. China made a deal with the UK for Hong Kong to be an autonomous region until 2047. But China has interpreted the deal loosely and has accelerated the timeline end their autonomy. The people of Hong Kong especially the young refuse to accept the deal that the colonizer made and they see their freedoms eroding (China has even tried to ban the speaking of Cantonese). That's why everything is violently falling apart. I think the younger people of Hong Kong are prepared to die for their freedom.

  30. On one side are old men like Xi who needs to hold onto their power like they need air to breathe, and are ready and willing to kill for it. Other peoples' lives are nothing to them. They are an embarrassment to themselves and their ancestors. No honor within them... On the other side are the young, the poor and the downtrodden fighting for their basic dignity and freedom. Return good for good; return evil with justice. - Confucius

  31. I’ve been a longtime subscriber to the NYT, and I happen to have lived in HK for the past 2.5 years. From the perspective of someone living on the ground, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more unsafe or not able to speak freely until recently. Protesters are demanding the safeguard of freedoms such as speech, yet when confronted with people who do not agree with them, their reaction is to beat them up, or in an extreme case, set him on fire. How does this make any sense? HK has always been an entrepôt, full of people from different backgrounds, living in a multilingual society. The MTR, for example, broadcasts automated messages in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. All of sudden, speaking mandarin gets you attacked in the streets. How is this good for HK as a place for diversity of thought? There has been a lot of talk in the HK local media about police abuse of power, including the shooting of one protester yesterday. Yes, the young man was unarmed. But the video shows him trying to snatch the gun from the police officer, and advance towards the police officer more than once after what appears a verbal warning. In any other place in the world, there are consequences for this sort of conduct.

  32. @Carl Zhao I am also "on the ground" having lived in Hong Kong on and off for the past 9 years. Your point about HK being 'an entrpot' where many languages have been spoken is a good example of taking a fact and twisting it out of all semblance of reality. While there have always been merchants and traders etc. from various countries speaking different languages in Hong Kong, the overwhelming majority (always over 95%) of the population have been local Cantonese speakers. I completely understand locals' concerns with the increased use of Mandarin in their city. Given the cultural genocide being practiced by the Beijing regime in Xinjiang (about which Hong Kongers are much better informed than mainlanders), I understand why Cantonese speakers feel threatened.

  33. just saw on Facebook a video of 4 police officers in USA handcuffed a man for eating sandwich on a train platform. seem like the west set a standard so high for HK police that their own police need not meet.

  34. @Carl Zhao According to the law in HK, the cops need to show their badge numbers —visibly—when they're on duty. The cops have broken the law by hiding their badge numbers so Hongkongers can't make complaints anymore. The cops also wear masks to hide their faces in order to avoid being video for who they are and what they do. No numbers to complaint, no responsibilities to kill and to hurt unarmed people. Are you okay with that? Are these police behaviors? Look at this reality: Enzo Lenze said "I’m more afraid of the HK police, since they are unpredictable." He is a journalist from Germany who worked at the ISIS-Frontlines. As for the fight between cantonese and mandarin, cantonese is the native language in HK. It's our mother language. However, the Communist Chinese government wants to change our native language to mandarin since the hand-over in 1997. This is cultural genocide. What a joke!

  35. The police brutality has been shocking. I watched many videos and the police in HK, in metal gear from head to toe, behave like violent thugs. It has provoked the protestors who are forced to escalate their strategies. Can you blame them? I watched several interviews with Carrie Lam. She acts insane...laughing at the protestors, not even listeming to the questions being asked and repeating the same thing over and over again like a parrot. Who put her in charge? Bizarre. China appears to be not a communist country anymore. It appears to be a mass surveillance police state. Scary. The protestors worries and fears were legitimate from the start. Their persistence is amazing. They are fighting for oxygen...literally. They are fighting for basic freedom.

  36. To Tessa Cambridge5h ago who writes: "The larger narrative, logic, and emotional resonance driving this decentralized network of millions of people are unclear to me -- including the average age (I'm guessing the ones actually driving the discussion online are quite young 16-28)," The larger narrative is well documented in the South China Morning Post : Hong Kong university graduates take home less pay than counterparts 30 years ago and one in six ends up in unskilled job, study finds Median monthly starting salary of university graduate was HK$14,395 last year, compared with HK$20,231 in 1987" South China Morning Post Dec 2018 The educated young in HK face a dismal future : Lower salaries, ever higher rents, no jobs, and ever increasing competition from mainland Chinese, willing to work for less than them If American University Graduates would earn 25% less than they did 32 years ago , and unemployment would by 16% there would be protest too.

  37. We have been witnessing the daily revolution of Hong Kong's citizens against the Communist leaders in Beijing for the past several months. Revolutions are afoot in many nations today. Like fruit, revolutions begin with blossoms of protest that in time ripen till the fruit falls from the mother tree. In America, in Russia, in the Near and Far East, in both hemispheres, revolution is happening. Revolution of the Earth against mankind,too. The inter-connectedness of the web of humanity. the revolution of fauna, flora and mankind are occuring due to climate-warming. We are paying attention to these inconvenient truths, revolutions happening all over our world.

  38. This article brought tears to my eyes. This is truly how a whole city coops and pushes for democracy. The shared sense of community and the unity of both the old and the youth is what scares Beijing. Not only are the people in Hon Kong fighting for democracy, they are showing the World how one city can defy an empire.

  39. What is impressionable and consistent since the citizens of Hong Kong have been demonstrating is they all are regular people. There is little impression that they are anything but people who are passionate in defending what little right they have left in Hong Kong - they will not be deterred! For example they all seem to be wearing cloth weaved sneakers, water snorkeling masks to protect their eyes from tear gas - umbrellas are their most lethal looking weapons? How can we not sit up and notice these caring people for their society? We in NYC - would be much the same except some of our subversives would surely inflict damage but one feels for these "Davids'" knowing full well their "Goliath" can crush them at any moment.

  40. If these samaritans really want to help the children, counsel them to stop, or migrate. There is no stopping China from taking over Hongkong as it rightly belongs to China. Hongkong has never had democracy, not even under British rule. All these anger and refusal to accept the reality is not helping themselves. Use your energy to find another country that will take them and give them democracy. If they love Hongkong so much, then know that Hongkong belongs to China. Learn to live with that.

  41. I must confess that the current tactics followed by the Hong Kong police baffles me. What exactly are they hoping to achieve, antagonize every single person living in Hong Kong and encourage more people to join the protests? The protesters are not blocking streets and setting fires because they have anything against the streets. They want the police to respond violently. So why give them what they want? Withdraw the police to the barracks. Have only unarmed firefighters and medics on the streets. Call in the army to protect vital infrastructure. Issue shoot to kill on sight orders for anyone entering prohibited areas. Leave the rest of the city to the protesters. Let anyone who wants to protest anything do so to their heart's content. Let them burn the entire city down if that is what they want. Let us see how long they will continue to have public support.

  42. The violence is just wrong - the ends don't justify the means.

  43. Most of the younger generation of Hong Kong largely support the movement and most are intensely involved. The US should support liberation and freedom and counter the manipulations of the China government, dismissing the protestors as rioters, and using deceptive practices like having fake protesters commit unpopular acts—those shouting down the HK anthem at yesterday's Armistices ceremony were older adults and looked like possible plants.

  44. Interesting how none of these volunteers are financiers/ wall street type. Moolah is more important to them, like their brethren here

  45. The anarchists in HK tell us how democracy is not to be. It brings the bad name for democracy which will be paid by all the people in HK now and in the future.

  46. Though well intended, the volunteers are pushing those kids to the wrong direction that eventually leads to their ruin. By providing support, they explicitly or implicitly endorse the violence, the irrationality, and the intolerance of different opinions; those in turn have already defeated the original objective of the movement - liberty and democracy .

  47. @Z What do mean by "liberty" and "democracy", Z? As an American, I am well aware of how these terms have been abused in the U.S., which is now the most unequal of democracies, as well as the most militant, and the most incarcerating. We have more people in jail than any other country. In America, the most powerful voters in the world use their "freedom" to not pay attention to what has been done to them by the rich and powerful. Instead they listen to the one-way media which in a multitude of ways mislead them.

  48. Americans should take heed. We are also oppressed. Only the masses, in their majority, have not yet discovered it. But, now, some are speaking out.

  49. It is shocking to hear that hospitals are being avoided and people are being treated inside churches. It is a testament to Hong Kong's greatness that the city is mostly coming together to support the young people and their future. This is also a testament to how bad mainland China is. The quote from the elderly woman from Guangzhou was telling. Also telling was the Independent poll that was referenced. Eighty-eight percent of respondents support an independent inquiry into police violence. Eighty-one percent of respondents support more democracy.

  50. @Justin Koenig is democracy attacking people with views different from your own.. is freedom of speech only your speech and not views contrary to you. There are thugs masquerading as protestors.. and somehow viewed as heros.

  51. @Chian Eighty-eight percent of respondents support an independent inquiry into police violence. Additionally, the independent inquiry can investigate the protesters as well. This is a two-way street. Protesters are okay with that. It sounds like you're missing the point for what Hongkongers want. You also misunderstood for what Koenig said. " freedom of speech only your speech and not views contrary to you." This is exactly what the CCP is. Are you complaining Xi Jinping? Right, he'll allow the system—independent judiciary, rule of law, freedom of speech—to run in Hong Kong. Hongkonger are trying to hold on these values.

  52. @Justin Koenig It is a testament of the deep hatred and racism that America harbors towards China that anything and everything down to lighting human beings on fire earns American apologists trying to justify even violent criminals as being "righteous" so long as they serve the foreign policy objectives of attacking China.

  53. I’m so proud of the people of Hong Kong and of my own Hong Kong heritage. This article embodies the spirit of the people there and what it means to be a Hong Konger. Stand strong and keep up the fight!

  54. @vladimir That is to say, Chinese heritage.

  55. @Michael I am more proud of being a New Yorker than American, because there is a distinct cultural context that I am coming from apart from an American identity. Hong Kong has a far more extreme example of local pride, because the island has been forming its independent spirit between the forces of colonial and mainland forces for a long time. It has its own ethos because of its specific context, geographically and historically. Islands shape strong local characters.

  56. @Michael Likely, but Hongkonger is a mixed bag with a strong South Asian mix. You wish to make the point that HK is China? So in Singapore almost, but they have found their own identity and that is strong in HK -- for better or worst.

  57. Can you please not name these courageous people? Your naming of them helps the Chinese communist party’s secret police identify them. They will be affected by this in due course and may we’ll end up in the Chinese gulag. You’re happy to use anonymous sources in Washington; give these folks pseudonyms and give them a fighting chance.

  58. I agree. After the protests and massacre in China the lives of students supporting the movement studying outside China were forever altered. They may be willing to risk their lives on a daily basis but let's not add to the danger they are in. Please refrain publishing identifying details.

  59. This is so inspiring. A new birth of democracy on the very doorstep of the greatest threat to human freedom in the world.

  60. @Matthew Hall - I am very sorry to respond negatively to your comment. However, this is not about a “new birth.” We are witnessing the agony of a dying democracy.

  61. The western rhetoric on China (in this case being the greatest threat to human freedom) is so detached from the reality that is experienced by the countries in Asia Pacific.

  62. @Matthew The greatest threat from the CCP export its value ie communism + state run corporations running with its own rules

  63. This is really an exceptional article. What would happen if the police joined the protests and stood with the protesters? I wonder if there are some who would like to. I wonder why they don't? If they did that, would the Chinese government release the PLA troops based in Hong Kong and send in more troops? Is that why the police are, perhaps subconsciously, reacting so violently? Maybe some of them?

  64. That is impossible, given that the protesters have lost all legitimacy from the point of view of law and order. Even the HK people are tired of the destruction to properly, lives, and their economy.

  65. @Mike 60% Hong Konger's approve, according to the article.

  66. Any system that disregards the will of the people and denies them a voice in their future is illegitimate to begin with.