I.In 2019, Hong Kong is experiencing a dramatic summer that will be inscribed in the history of the city-state. The protests in the Chinese Special Administrative Region against a planned extradition law begin peacefully. It is mainly schoolchildren and students who take to the streets and insist that the formula “one country, two systems” should not be further undermined by the influence of the Chinese government becomes. But the struggle for a “real” democracy quickly comes to a head, and state power shows its ugly face.
Two years have passed since then, a long time in which the world’s attention has turned to new hot spots. But the calm after political storms is usually deceptive because it disguises the serious consequences. Documentaries such as “Hong Kong – a city in resistance” are all the more important and remind us that injustices that have occurred always have an impact on the future. Tan, for example, a young man and family man who became increasingly radicalized in the course of the summer of 2019, pays several years in prison for his commitment to democracy. He is one of the protagonists who accompanies the director Han Yan Yuen in her fight for a better, democratic future. Equipped with a gas mask, testicle protection and knee pads, Tan confronts the police officers, who over the months increasingly brutally push the demonstrators back with rubber bullets and water cannons. One scene shows a policeman spraying tear gas in the face of a protester at close range and the man writhing in pain. Tan says: “My family can wait for me, my colleagues can’t.”
One of these comrades-in-arms is law student Eve, who sits in front of a monitor at the university that shows the terrifying live images of the escalating protests. She supports where she can, offers legal help and coordinates actions. Twitter, Instagram, but above all Telegram are the preferred communication channels of the demonstrators, whose fear of being bugged is of course great. Anonymous callers from China, says Eve, threatened her and her family with death, but they don’t intimidate her.
Street scenes that impressively capture the dynamics of the protests and those points where everything tips over dominate the documentation. In the hottest phase of the protests, attack and retreat of the demonstrators alternate every minute. The police are tearing down road blockades that have just been built. Safe places do not exist anywhere. One day the police arrested MJ, an eighteen-year-old man, at home. The camera accompanies his completely broken up girlfriend Jessica, who has since left Hong Kong, in a taxi to the police station. The summer of 2019 will also put countless relationships to the test. Everyday moments like those in which MJ and Jessica go shopping, laughing and fooling around together are becoming a precious rarity. Suddenly the obvious is unusual.
One of the strongest scenes is the derogatory discussion between the students and the director of their university. Stunned that he never publicly condemns the police violence, they shout their frustration at him. You feel betrayed by a man who has studied and lived in the West and is now too cowardly to take a stand. A student breaks down in tears.
At the same time, the population is very committed: never before has a social movement in Hong Kong received such broad, cross-milieu support. Drivers stop when they feel they can protect protesters from the police – they are called parent taxis. These parent taxis may have disappeared, but the wounds left in the summer of 2019 with its dead, injured and arrested freedom fighters are still painful.
Hong Kong – a city in resistance, today at 10.55 p.m. at Arte.