On the evening of August 31, the police ruthlessly attacked people at the MTR subway station. The bystanders watched helplessly and photographed a large number of police officers who rounded up and battered any who were waiting at the station. Many of the victims had blood on their faces and some were comatose or even frothing at the mouth. Moreover, in the 10 days following August 31, there were 24 suicide cases reported in Hong Kong, with at least 20 suicide cases occurring in June and July respectively. This triggered a response from the public who speculated that the demonstrators were being murdered while in custody.
Although the Hong Kong authorities have said there have been no law enforcement deaths in the past three months, this news has not shifted the doubts of the people. There seems to be a bit of a spin put on the definitions the police used to justify the attack on the public and civil rights protestors. The police did not admit to lashing out indiscriminately and said that they arrested the demonstrators for using violence against the police. Huang Guotong said: “I feel that the violence has an outcome. The police said that more than a hundred of their colleagues were injured. So it is very simple, show us your injuries. Fingers sprayed with pepper spray? Who made the fake injuries? Up to now, the Hong Kong authorities have not been able to bring all the injury cases to court so far. If you say it’s because of privacy issues, then only confirm their names, the age, and the injury so we know what the truth is. If you know the facts, it will be easy to tell which side is violent because this is very objective information.”
As the numbers of demonstrators have increased, many more have been arrested by the police and the workload of the volunteer lawyers continues to grow. The lawyers are under pressure and, consequently, have devoted more time and energy to the rescue work. Huang Guotong said: “We give the protestors what we can. When the phone rings, we ask where the person is, then collect the information and try to divide the team to cover all the cases. We feel that at the moment in Hong Kong, everyone has to go the extra mile in their positions.”
Young people in Hong Kong have come to the forefront of the protests. Huang Guotong said that using experienced lawyers to help those who have lost their freedom makes him comfortable in facing his own conscience. He said: “My team feels that they owe young people. In this case, we work a bit harder and don’t do our regular business first. We try to support the students as much as possible because when we do, they have peace of mind. I saw their smiles and saw them breathe a sigh of relief once they knew they had assistance and we were there to help. I hope that after we leave the detention centers, at least their legal rights will be guaranteed to a certain extent. I am very upset that I cannot go to the front line with them, and can only do my best using my position. This is the voice of all [voluntary lawyer] team members.”
When asked if he was under pressure to act as a lawyer for the anti-extradition demonstrators, Huang Guotong replied: “Go out and do everything you can. The Hong Kong people today are going out to protest as everyone is looking at their conscience.” In the face of the disguised pressure by the police, he said: “We will not let it go; we will persist. If you keep me in detention or a long time, I will say that I have been here for fifteen minutes, you have to help. Remember, if anything happens in these fifteen minutes, I will take you to court. You have to tell me why I have to wait for 15 minutes, I will work it out with you so I can account for every minute spent here.”
He believes that the power of the rule of law can shine a light in the darkness: “The manifestation of the rule of law comes in the darkest hours, and then the light of the law is seen. I hope we can amplify these tiny rays, grow them so the light can shine on Hong Kong and highlight it as the capital of the rule of law.”
Translated by Yi Ming and edited by Helen