On Monday’s Four Corners, Sophie McNeill is on the frontlines of Hong Kong’s uprising for her report, “Rebellion”.
ABC cameras capture the violence, on both sides.
“We will do anything to get our democracy, to get our freedoms, by any means necessary.” Protestor
For the past 12 weeks, the metropolis of Hong Kong – normally one of the world’s most vibrant yet orderly cities – has been convulsed by turmoil, as its people rise up against mainland Chinese rule.
“People don’t have a choice but to find alternatives, which is to go the street and say, ‘We don’t believe in what China is promising’.” Protestor
Pro-democracy protestors have repeatedly seized control of key parts of the city, including its airport. These “flash mob” actions are designed to create maximum chaos and embarrassment for the city’s political leadership and their masters in Beijing. It has become an epic battle of wills.
“We are Hong Kongers. We are not Mainlanders. That’s what we have to say to the whole world. With the Chinese Communist Party trying to take over our country or our city, we will (be) against them for everything.” Protestor
On Monday Four Corners goes on the frontline of the protests, capturing the full force of the escalating violence with extraordinary footage.
“The protesters are now starting to move back as we can see the police in the distance and it looks like they are coming down straight towards us.” Sophie McNeill, reporter
Images of hardcore protestors dressed in masks, black t-shirts and yellow helmets – known as ‘front-liners’ – have dominated the news. Now Four Corners meets those behind the masks, who are risking everything for their cause.
“The reason why we all come in black clothes is that we don’t want to be identified…we understand that we are breaking some of the laws in the name of justice, and then we also know that if we are identified by the police or the government they will charge us.” Front-liner
This is a sophisticated protest movement that uses social media and encrypted apps to organise everything from protest locations to pop up shops providing contraband gas masks. The activists are often described simply as students, but this so-called ‘Netizen’ movement comprises a broad cross section of the Hong Kong community.
“In one arrest, the police arrested some 40 people. The youngest being 13, the oldest 62 and in between people from all walks of life. We have an airplane pilot, we have a nurse, we have teachers, we have social worker, we have a many professionals.” Member of the Legislative Council
Protesters say they are responding to the steady strangling of their rights by Beijing. Four Corners charts how in just a few weeks the protest movement has evolved from a dispute over a proposed extradition law to a full blown democracy campaign.
“We can be radical sometimes. We can also be very, very peaceful, as long as our demands are heard. But one thing, one message is that none of us will quit the fight.” Democracy campaigner
Four Corners cameras have captured the violence, on both sides, as the intense tug of war continues.
“They’ve surrounded him and they’re holding him and it’s not clear what they are going to do with him next.” Sophie McNeill, reporter
As the protests enter their 13th week, even those who support them worry about what will happen to those taking on the authorities.
“I’m very worried. I can never tell whether they’re brave or crazy brave. They think that this is the last stand and that if they don’t fight this one out to the bitter end, that’s it.” Lawyer
If their actions weren’t already provocative enough, some in the movement are hoping their actions will inspire the Chinese people to rise up.
“I do hope Hong Kong movement can serve as a beacon that tells mainland Chinese that there is an alternative. We can live better than just submitting to the terror of Beijing.” Protestor
8:30pm Monday 2nd September on ABC.