We interviewed Philip Ho who is in his sixties.
What do you think about how the police have handled the protests in Hong Kong?
I’m an old immigrant from China; I came to Hong Kong in the late 1970s. I swam across the river, risking my life to reach Hong Kong and leave communist China which at that time was beset by hunger and poverty. I started working hard to make a living. I’m well off now. I’ve seen the differences between police in Hong Kong and the mainland over the years. The major contrast is some policemen have faith and go to church; they’re different from mainland Chinese police.
Since the Umbrella Movement started, I was very sad to see police use force on students and protesters. That’s not like Hong Kong police. It’s more like in China where it’s normal for police to use force and beat people. No one dares to complain or speak out.
During the clearing of the Mongkok site, some police lost control and beat whoever blocked their way. I started worrying that Hong Kong police are forgetting their duty to protect people with a sense of justice.
Using force can only add fuel to the protests and that was proved by their violent action on Sept. 28. The next day, thousands came out to condemn the government’s stupid decision.
What was the most memorable thing for you about the police’s actions during the protests?
I’ve been watching closely since the protests started. I came to Hong Kong for freedom, and it was a big effort to get here. How can I stand by knowing it really connected with my life. So I came to Admiralty everyday to see how the students are doing and any developments from the government.
Learning that Mongkok was going to be cleared first, I went there late on Nov. 27 with one of our churchgoers. We took our Bibles with us. I believed the police have human nature and wouldn’t beat young students.
By 11 p.m. there were a large number of armed police with helmets and shields. My heart turned cold and I was shivering. I never thought I’d really see that, like a scene from the movies. Around midnight, police started advancing, and in a few minutes the line of students broke due to tear gas and pepper spray. Those at the front turned away and ran for safety. Some shouted that they needed eye protection and water.
We just stood in a side street with nothing but our Bibles. I felt I couldn’t protect those students. But one incident really shocked me: A man fell over, and two policemen knelt on him and tried to tie him up. I loudly recited a passage from the Bible, and the police stopped, leaving the wounded man on the ground. They didn’t beat or arrest him. He was so lucky. I heard that other people recited verses from the Bible, and some police put down their batons.
But Sunday was a bloody night and many protesters were hurt by police batons. Like the students, my heart was bleeding. I just wanted to call over the Chief Executive: “Come and talk with your own people. No more violence.”
I cried and hoped such things would never happen again in Hong Kong.
What should they have done differently, if anything?
Police do have the right to use force, but it should be against criminals or black guards, not peaceful students. The duty of police is to keep society safe, protect people from being threatened or hurt, and maintain law and order. If they helped maintain order for students, there wouldn’t be many protesters.
Police, please use your wisdom. Violence begets violence.
You can read other stories in our series here: