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And Progressive will help you find options that fit within your budget. Use the name your price tool and start an online quote at progressive dot com. Pricing coverage match limited by state law. When I first heard about the new Chinese national security guy that went into effect this month in Hong Kong, the person I wanted to talk to about it is this Hong Kong protester that I will call Jennifer. Jennifer is somebody who I and a couple of other producers from our show spent time with and went to protest with last fall.
So many things that she said to us back then would now be illegal under the new Chinese law. In fact, any criticism of China or the Hong Kong government, anybody calling for democracy in Hong Kong anywhere in the world could be prosecuted under this law. Calling for the United States to support the protesters, which Jennifer did, that is illegal if the Chinese decide that talking to reporters like us is collusion with foreigners. That would be illegal. Chenega protests about Hong Kong independence has been declared illegal.
Damaging subway stations is categorized as terrorism with severe penalties. Books by activists have been removed from public libraries. People been arrested for carrying pro independence flags. China is setting up its own separate national security apparatus in Hong Kong to handle these cases. Maximum penalty life in prison.
We're going to do today on our program as play you the episode that we made last fall about the Hong Kong protesters, where we tried to explain the feelings and the ideals behind the protests. And then at the end of the hour, we will play you the interview that I just did with Jennifer this month. On the second full day, the new law went into effect about the law. If you're listening to the podcast version of our show and you heard this episode when we first put it out in the fall and you just want to jump to the new part with Jennifer, the new interview, it starts around 14 minutes from the end.
OK, here's the episode. It's nearly 2:00 in the afternoon when we reach Jennifer's family's apartment. She's just gotten up. She's still eating a very light breakfast.
I'll finish my noodles and I'll start packing with my co-worker, Emmanuel Berry.
I in a quiet Working-Class neighborhood in the heart of Hong Kong.
It's called New Territories. Take it to Sunday. So Jennifer is getting ready to do what she does every weekend, what she did yesterday. In fact, that's why she slept late. She's going to a protest with little backpack.
So this is the back that I should have break. So this is a maroon bag. It's a very small one. We have to keep everything light. So I always have a bottle of water and many T-shirts. I have to bring a lot of tissues because we need to wipe our eyes when there is tear gas and cause I know how to do first day. I always bring my first aid kit.
The first aid kit is a little Ziploc bag with roller bandages and gauze and gloves and stuff to sterilize a wound. Jennifer started in the volunteer ambulance corps in seventh grade and has used other stuff at demonstrations. She packs her wallet in her air pods.
Cause I have to listen songs to batteries for a phone turn because she's on it constantly doing protests, checking me continuously updated online maps that show where the police are in show escape routes that she packs black T-shirt uniform and Hong Kong protesters is black shirt, black pants, surgical mask to disguise their identities.
It's black as always, though. She's wearing a striped maroon shirt for the bus ride to the protest.
Yeah, I wear our normal T-shirts when I go out so that no one could identify I'm going to a protest and sometimes I bring makeup so that I can transform myself after the protest.
How do you transform yourself like that?
I bring foundation very small, but can do everything. How different are you going to look with that foundation?
It looks like you're not going to protest because girls who are going to protest, they barely do makeup. But if girls doing makeup, they're probably meeting someone. And so I bring this one. And then, of course, I bring my brow pencil because it really can make you look like an other person and angry.
And I bring lipstick. Sorry is the first one.
So we're in your room. Your room has pink walls and there is a bunk bed with the bed on the top and a desk underneath it. Yeah.
Is very typical Hong Kong gross room for a Hong Kong protester to live at home with her mom and dad.
That is not unusual in any way, if you know anything about the demonstrations that have overtaken Hong Kong since June. You know, it's mostly young people in the city where rents are high. Jennifer is 22 and just graduated college. She's working her first entry level job at a public relations firm.
I came to Hong Kong because there were things about the protests that I really did not understand. And we'll get to that point. Things that fascinated me once I arrived was winning. What a routine the protests have become and what it was like for the people in them. This is mid-September, the 13th week of protests for Jennifer.
I'm not really worried cause it's just like in that day, I think I will meet up with two two friends of mine. But I'm not sure if I am going to because they're couples, so I don't want to be.
They are colorful, so I don't want to be. They're always kids next to me. So why speak of the devil?
It's a friend who kisses her boyfriend at demonstrations and she's calling with bad news that she's going to bring gasmask to the rally today.
They'd order them from Amazon. Jennifer, thanks.
But now she's on the bringing gasmask would be a bad idea because at the subway station, police are searching everybody, including men, little ones, and young people like us. They were searching their backs. And if they have any equipment with them, like the guest mat at Mass, whatever, they just arrest then. Yeah. So my friend just asked me if it is a must for me to get the gas mask. So I told her that, no, it's not a mask.
I don't want to risk my friend getting searched. So they she told the other Phrae not to come out was equipment not ideal but she's gone with that gas mask before.
Jennifer grabs her knapsack, says bye to her mom, tells her to come home early. I request it'll be totally ignored. We head outside. Then she turns and runs back, would you forget Umbrella? It is very important to you, even if it's not going to rain.
Yeah. It is not for the rain. It is for tear gas and bullets.
Rubber bullets as it works on bullets. Yes, frankly, yes. No, I don't understand why. But always those bullets, they slip off along the umbrella. So they just they don't get through the umbrella.
Also, protesters hide behind a wall of umbrellas when the painting graffiti or dismantling closed circuit TV camera on the street doing anything else. They don't want the police to see. She and I and a manual head to the bus stop. We know as other young people carrying full sized umbrellas on this totally sunny day walking over here to the bus.
So you like looking around to see if other people you think are going to protest. I always want to know how many peoples are around. Right. Yeah. And so there's like some young people on our left, two people standing next to you. I think the group probably is not to see tissue brings a very small bag. But the tall guy. The tall, tall guy in white shirt. Yeah. And then the couple behind you, probably it's like, are you on my side?
Are you one of us? You know, once you're the protest, everybody's in a mass. So you don't really know who's on your team. You're in the neighborhood. It's kind of exciting to wonder who your allies might be.
Was the protest in Hong Kong been international news for months kicked off by people's fears that mainland China is threatening some very basic things about their city and their lives? But for all the coverage here at our show, we thought we weren't seeing many stories where we got to know anybody very well, who they were, what exactly they expected was going to come out of the protests. Given China's intransigence, three of us arrived in Hong Kong in mid-September. Me and Emmanuel and a co-worker, Diane Wu, had to say one of the things that was fascinating, given the ugly state of democracy here in the United States lately, was to be among so many young people who believe so intensely in democratic ideals and yearn so deeply for the basics like normal elections, free speech and free assembly.
Though just in the last few weeks since we got to Hong Kong, we've watched this situation changed dramatically. It's gotten much more violent, harsh new measures by the government. This hour, we have the story of the change that we witnessed and what we think it might mean if you haven't been following the story at all, maybe been sitting this one out. We're going to catch you up on what you need to know. We have all sorts of people from all sides of this that we want you to meet from WBC Chicago.
It's this American Life this week overseas with a lot of people who have some very American values.
Stay with us.
Back on the curse generation.
OK, so what politicized thousands, thousands of people this much that they've dropped their normal lives.
They're coming out every single weekend to protest. It's now been 18 straight weeks. Take Jennifer, for instance. She's somebody who worked at Abercrombie and Fitch during college, Stormy in the busted protests. That's why her English is so good. She's somebody who wanted to be a singer.
We actually got a chance to go pro when she was 16, but her mom quashed. That thing was too much of a longshot and she should get an education and get a normal job. Jennifer was actually very surprised when I informed her that an American parent might said the same exact thing.
I thought, like American dreams get to be true. That is, I watch Glee.
So how did this glee watching Internet savvy college grad and her first office job?
How did she end up protesting in the street every weekend with tens or maybe it's hundreds of thousands of her peers?
For starters, Jennifer is 22, which means she's part of a special generation in Hong Kong.
I'm born in Hong Kong in 1997, right before the handover. And here's a protester recalling Alice. And I'm born in 1997. Here's her friend, Wukong Tiffany. I'm also buying Nanjiani seven.
You can call me EWN and I'm born in 1987 to 1997 is a year when Hong Kong was handed over back to China from the British.
Okay, let's just pause on these 22 year olds for a minute for some quick history, as you may or may not know. Hong Kong sits on the edge of mainland China, right?
There was a British colony for a really long time starting in the 19th century. And then finally in 1997, the British got out. They handed it over to China. And the idea was there's going to be a 50 year transition period. After 50 years, China will fully be in charge. But during that 50 years, Hong Kong would be a democracy.
Now Hong Kong people are to run Hong Kong.
That's the last British governor of Hong Kong during the handover ceremony in 1997.
That is the promise and that is the unshakable destiny.
But to be clear, Hong Kong had not been a democracy under Britain, but they were going to transition towards it over a bunch of years. And the hope was after 50 years in 2047, the Chinese government got them stay a democracy, which at the time did not seem like a crazy idea. China was opening up in all kinds of ways, though it wasn't clear how this was going to play out. And at the end of the day, after 50 years in the year 2047, China was going to be able to do whatever it wanted in Hong Kong.
These are the children born the year that clock started ticking.
And have you heard of the phrase curse generation?
Yes. What's this joke among the nineteen ninety seven people? It was. It was pretty much a joke or pretty much a funny thing to us, because I think when we first joke about it, it's really primary schools.
But it first generation is just what we're doing, judging our for all those years. Originally, the joke had to do with a coincidence. They were curse because of some weird, bad luck during some big childhood milestones. They all went through together like the year their kindergarten graduation. The Saar's virus hit Hong Kong city shut down. Graduations were canceled. Six years later, when they should have had their elementary school graduation, same thing happened again. But as swine flu.
And Jennifer remembers that her friends joke that when they graduated high school was going to be Ebola. And that's when they started using the word curse.
I think that was the time around the time that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Christ child. Yet so many of us, all the I always say that we are the chosen one because Harry Potter was the chosen one. All of us love Harry Potter. So we always go, oh, we're the chosen one. We have to face something special in their life or we are the curse to what we have to face simply bad or something significant.
Jennifer says the chosen one side of things didn't really kick into their senior year of high school. It was 2014. They were 17, the 17th year since the handover. And that year, people in Hong Kong were still expecting that mainland China was going to let them start holding full on elections where they could choose their own leaders. As promised, back in 1997 and that year, China announced it wasn't going to happen.
It's led to a movement called the Umbrella Movement, headed by young people, teenager who turned to politics in his public school classes that are these 22 year olds talk about as being instrumental in their thinking causes that began as part of a handover called liberal studies classes that explained, among other things, the promises of 1997 and the rise as Hong Kong citizens. They took to the streets mosin for the first time banning the boat, carrying umbrellas. Thousands of people in a vast procession down the streets and protest movement that was almost entirely peaceful.
And they lost didn't get the vote. After three months, the protests ended. Alice works for a multinational company in an entry level job out of college. She's a management trainee. She says she went to some protest back then out of solidarity with her peers.
I was just amazed by the other students.
But you don't really get all the politics out like that. Change in June twenty nineteen, when Hong Kong introduced the bill that would allow mainland China to extradite people from Hong Kong to be tried and punished in China under Chinese law. This is this is seen as a new and very menacing encroachment on the rights of Hong Kong citizens. Since 1997, they've been ruled by Hong Kong laws and Hong Kong courts. Everybody is presumed innocent, but the rights we know in most democratic countries are different.
Now, anybody could get thrown into the prisons and courts of communist China.
I'd say that that was the time when I first feel awakened, when I'm truly understanding what's happening. When I first go to the march of the no extradition bill and I was very, very emotional at that time because like there is only around seven million people in Hong Kong, but one million walk on the street with the same demand, with the same wish of like having Hong Kong to remain its current state.
When a Hong Kong to stay like it is with its own laws separate from China, everything. A week later, too many people came out.
At the time, I was feeling very. Oh, my God, this is so touching. Like, why is people so united? And then the next second, the government just declares that, oh, we heard your voice. But we will be continuing on the bill on this day. So that was like a really big contrast. And like in the morning, you see how peaceful things were that night. You see the police coming out and start brutally hitting people.
I was like it was really unforgettable to me because that was the first time when I witnessed with my real heist that the police was chasing people. They are chasing students who did not do anything and start to beat them and arrest them. Other 22 year olds also told us how radicalizing it's been to see police tear gassing and beating peaceful protesters. And at this point, I understand this.
Before we got to Hong Kong, a lot of the emotion driving the protests is just about the police because the government is supporting them to do such things.
And there is no penalty for them.
Even if they are doing things that are completely unacceptable to everyone, of course, nobody knows where this is going to lead by 2047. When China fully takes over Hong Kong. But for Jennifer and lots of other people her age, things are starting to feel pretty ominous.
Hong Kong gonna become just like any other Chinese city run by the communist. When you're 50. What do you picture your life here will be like? I can picture that. I would be super depressed cause I super, like, comment on political thing. I really cannot imagine the day that I cannot speak freely on Internet. That way, do I have that freedom of speech anymore? And I cannot imagine that there will come a day. Me and my friends commenting on the government will become a crime.
And you think that would happen? Yes, I do. Well, like all the same that is happening.
Manage Hannant now, especially, I would say in we're seeing young children, young. What is happening in down what happened in Hong Kong?
She's talking about internment camps where the Chinese are holding perhaps a million wiggers and others, they say, is re education.
But it's basically a concentration camp. They put people who does not who do not agree with the government into the concentration camp and educate them. And they got monitored wherever and whenever they go everywhere as police, police monitors, everybody's move. And I do think that if we do not fight for our future, there will come a day.
Hong Kong would become like Heejun because she's politically active. This is not feel like an abstract threat. When these 22 year olds picture who, China's going to crack down on them. Devotees outside our first job out of college, she works at a bank jazz restaurant, Peiser Voice, with an actors who knows what ever they would do to us at the extradition booth.
Who knows where we will go, what's how we will disappear. That's what we fear off.
Tavernese heard of the social credit system the Chinese started to monitor and rate its citizens. She fears it. If China decides that you're anti-government will make it impossible for you to get the job you want. Rise in society and the devices that China uses to monitor its population. An estimated 200 million surveillance cameras around the country with facial recognition software. They've been going up around Hong Kong. Tens of thousands of them. Many, like me, are scared of being monitor and raise it so that we will never, ever be free to do anything to every.
And there's a monitoring of the Chinese government. This is something else I didn't understand before I came to Hong Kong. Protesters like Tiffany and Jennifer don't just fear what's going to happen to them in the future with extradition laws or using the Internet or using free speech in their daily lives. Right now, they believe they're watching China already transforming Hong Kong, making it less like the Hong Kong may no more like the mainland. Jennifer points to changes in the public school curricula like she says her seven year old nephew is speaking Mandarin in school five days a week.
It didn't happen when she was a kid. Mandarin's what? They speak in mainland China and Hong Kong. People mostly speak in Cantonese and in English.
So all the Chinese classes are conducted in Mandarin. So he speaks Mandarin everyday. Basically, he's speaks Mandarin better than English.
Can you can you explain a little bit like why Cantonese is so important?
Cantonese is more like an identity to us.
It's part of what makes Hong Kong Hong Kong these days. When Jennifer pictures what life is gonna be like between now and 2047, she imagines around kids going to public schools, not studying Cantonese, coming home and parroting the pro-government line. That will be the curriculum by then.
So I do love kids. I really want to have kids. I want to have a football team of kids, really. But I just cannot imagine the life they will be having in Hong Kong later on. I, I cannot promise my kid a happy life if I am not certain about what will Hong Kong become.
You don't think there are children who were raised to be happy in mainland China? No. Not the kind of happy that I think Hong Kong, like mainland China people, they think that they are happy because they can still live. But then we leave. We want things more than just are fighting in this society. We we look for rights and freedoms and human rights. But then China's they ignore all those things. They just think having a stable life.
Having kids, having food, a good place to live. It is already happy enough.
Yeah. Another change she says she's seeing right now in Hong Kong. She's upset at other mainlanders moving there in her neighborhood and university students at She Friends and Canada College. So many mainlanders, she says.
I just feel really weird cause I. I am born and raised in Hong Kong. I go to a local school, but then I have to be surrounded by all the mainlanders.
Does it bother you to be surrounded by mainlanders?
Yes, actually, quite. But then, you know, we have one hundred and fifty new immigrants from China to Hong Kong every day.
I just got a positive rate there for a second. The total, by the way, is over a million mainlanders since 1997, roughly forty five thousand a year. But I'm loving it because I don't know how you're feeling about Jennifer. But this was a point we came to in a few interviews with these 22 year olds.
When you got them under the subject of mainlanders, get ready for a wave of totally bigoted opinions.
So especially I live in new territories. So all the people surrounding you, you hear Mandarin and then you start to see those less educated people, they squatting next to its streets. I did witness Ming lunch lady having her children P at the road and I always hear mainland people yelling, shouting out for nothing in the mall. And I always they jump into the line. Everything did bother me a lot.
Swotting what he means squatting. I don't know.
They just, they just want the ropes out waiting people. They just sit and squat and wait for nothing. Because what, for an hour.
People in Hong Kong don't do that. Well, we don't. Cause who was well at the road. Why you can't stand or why you can't just sit there more comfortable. It just doesn't look good. It doesn't look good. It doesn't look civilized.
So. For the arm that Jennifer in the curse generation feel about the future. The parents are often not as alarmed about China taking more control of Hong Kong than about what the island's gonna be like in twenty, forty seven activities parents hate or going out to protests. Every weekend I meet my parents. They like really have some very serious fights and they think we'll just let China take over Hong Kong.
It'll be fine.
I think our parents, some of the older generation just don't believe they are not brave enough to open up their eyes and see what is actually going to happen. They just feel like they do not do anything wrong. S lie. You do not do anything wrong.
They decide what's galling about this for Tiffany is that she feels like she's being the responsible one, fighting for everybody's future. And they're telling her not to protest. She was like, maybe if her parents had done this themselves years ago, things wouldn't be so bad today.
Like I'm 22 years old. In the past, when I was younger, I have never stood up like us. I'll fight like us too, asshole. What they are promise in that. How these seven. It's funny when you talk about it, you're mad at your parents about it.
I just feel like I mean, I don't understand why they will not want these rights or why they don't think that something bad is going to happen in the next 50 years.
So Tiffany and Jennifer and so many others, they've kind of given over their wives to protesting the work, doing the week protest on the weekends. They say that around much time in their lives or much else. What's interesting is they don't think it's going to work.
Most of interviewees told us that they don't think China is going to give in again. Here's Jennifer.
I am pretty much pessimistic, actually. I do wish that one day we all succeed. We want a democratic Hong Kong. But now I just don't see a way out like it's been three months with been trying each and every step. We've broke into the Legislative Council. So we have more than a thousand people got arrested. But the government is still trying to ignore all of this. If if you feel so pessimistic about the results, like why why still go?
Like, why are you still going out every weekend?
At least the governments see that we are not that. How do we say we are not that obedient? So we have to continuously tell the government that we are not satisfied with what they are giving us. So we have to do it again. Here's Alice. I think even if we have to lose, we need to leave our true thoughts in history. Will we need to let the people behind us knows that we've tried. 2047 is coming. And this is a very grand thing to say, but so many of these curse generation kids feel like they have a special destiny.
Alex, great to speak to us through an interpreter. She's a front line protester, builds barricades. It's been arrested.
Hung one photo. Hung one. Got the Hong Kong Taser door. Go home.
I think we're actually lucky or different because we grew up with people who thought the same way.
And we realized that when we turned 50, it's the end of our freedoms. I'm 22 now. And I imagine that when I'm 25. A really halfway. Until the bomb explodes.
And so if we don't do anything.
By the time we're 50 years old, it would be awful. I don't want our children to have the same battle. And then when we're 50, we'll look back and and think that we didn't do enough. Our birthday is like a countdown to the end. And so more so than other people. I feel like my generation. We have a duty upon to do more. What's he olio seeming dumb. Again, here's Jennifer.
If we were born earlier, probably I would become my dad and mom. And if I were born later, I would probably become those little kids became mentoring better than Cantonese. So I am happy that I am born in 1997. We are in the middle. We have the chance to know what is freedom. And we are experiencing that. Our freedom is being taken away. And that's why we are the group who step up first to fight for it.
Oh, I think we're getting off here. I think we're getting off after an hour bus ride. We get to the protest, Zach, to the fight once you're off of the bus. Jennifer ducked into a public restroom and comes out in black shirt, black pants, black mask over her face, hair pulled back in a ponytail. And we head onto a street where we're surrounded by hundreds of people dressed exactly like her. A big shopping district.
The stores closed and no cars. All the side streets have been blocked off at barricades by the protesters. Scaffolding and fencing, trashcans and orange construction cars piled in the street. They do an efficient job. We meet up with Jennifer's friends by a big Victoria's Secret store.
My friend. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. Yes. Very nice to meet you. Oh, this case in front of me.
For the record and with my afternoon. No kissing at all. The city is giving permission for fewer protests these days. And this is an unsanctioned demonstration we're at, which means that everybody here is breaking the law. Anyone is subject to arrest, which affects crowd size. Maximum penalty is five years, 10 years if convicted of rioting. Why are the protesters so scared of getting arrested all the time? But despite that, the beginning of the protests has the feeling of a block party.
People strolling, chatting. You see a few parents and kids. Some non protesters cut through the crowd running errands. But an hour into all this, I look around and realize, no families, no kids. That's not feeling like a block party at all. People are standing on top of fences trying to see what's ahead of us starting to put on gas mask. Describe what you're seeing, the protesters in the Tomáš streets looking backwards. So we assume that there are riot police on the other end of the road.
Oh, there is tear gas fired over there.
There's like two or three blocks away. We walk towards the police and the tear gas past teams of protesters who are knocking breaks out of the sidewalk with long steel tools.
And the idea is what to put on the road. So later on, the riot police cannot run that fast.
Also, people throw bricks at police who might straight to the front lines where hundreds of protesters have mastered a side street. The police are just half a block away. But we can't really see them through the crowd. And then a whole wave of tear gas canisters arcs towards us, hits us here. Lots of people, us included, are back a ways half block away. Jennifer calmly administers saving solution in the strangers. I've chosen my recorder. Got knocked around.
Running through the smoke. So I do not have a decent recording about. This is the road that she's assigned herself in the protests. First aid helping anybody who requires it. She even brought energy, candy, specifically to give out to people whose energy is flagging after being driven back. Jennifer and her two friends and I wait for the smoke to clear. So this happens at every protest? Yes, basically. So what do we do now?
We tidy up ourself and go again. And when you get to the police, what are you going to do?
I stand in front of them. If have chance, identify them back. All right. Goal is to make them to reach their front line.
After a couple minutes, we head back toward the front line. We're walking forward to the corner where it's this. And then we wait around.
A water cannon goes off, blasting water that is dyed blue, laced with stuff that stings your skin. More tear gas and we pull back a little. Then we move forward. Wade again.
This is both suspenseful and boring. Sometimes there's no way. There's not always a purpose. Sometimes we study how the bag is just at us apart. We just add as a support to those at friends. Support like if something happens your first day, something like this, but also they know that there are many people behind them. It is important to give them some mental support as well. Yeah, so many protesters like Jennifer.
They figure it's their job to support the people at the front who are the hardcore ones who push back against police and throw Molotov cocktails and chase police with sticks and metal rods and tear stuff down to build barriers. Just saw the police wearing full gear, helmets, goggles and gas masks and gloves. Finally, the front liners yelled that they want room to retreat. And so we need to retreat. So we fought way back a couple of blocks. So now we're just standing here.
Yeah. We always support our A system, just like a support to those in the front line.
But I don't understand, like so the police want us out of there. They push. They fired tear gas. They spray blue water and everybody. We move back. And then we stand here and what's our goal? This has been a very frequently asked question nowadays where we're just trying to stand on our own ground, not to be dispersed that easily.
That's just the goal, is to just stay out as long as you can and then eventually the police will push you off the street.
So in other words, it's exactly like the entire protest movement leading to 2047. Just try to slow them down as much as you can. Yes. In the end, China will win.
But for as long as you can just stand here in the street, it is pretty sad to say so, but pretty much accurate.
Yeah. What are they yelling? They start moving and then we head into a massive retreat as the police advanced towards us. And for the first time, there seems to be actual real fear. We're running down streets and side roads. We get separated from Jennifer's friends and from a manual dodging. The police finally taking refuge in a church. They're safe houses like this around Hong Kong. The protesters duck into it, takes over an hour. Finally, the coast is clear.
Jennifer calls a friend to pick her up. They're volunteer drivers for the protesters, part of the infrastructure they've created. Jennifer Change is out of her black T-shirt into civilian clothes. No makeup. She's too tired. She says there's no need. She's getting picked up by Jetton.
Coming up, we hear from people in Hong Kong who welcome China's takeover of the city with open arms.
And one of them came to feel that way. That's in a minute. Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.
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National annual average auto insurance savings by new customers surveyed in 2019. Potential savings will vary. Discounts vary and are not available in all states and situations. This American Life, I'm IRA Glass. Today, we are returning to a program that we first broadcast this past fall about the protests in Hong Kong. I traveled to Hong Kong with my co-workers, Diane Wu and Emmanuel Bery, under the new National Security Guard that China put into effect a couple weeks ago in Hong Kong.
Many of the things that these protesters said to us back then that you are hearing this hour could theoretically be prosecuted. We have changed nearly everybody's name. We will end the show today with an interview that I did this month about that law with Jennifer, who you heard in the first half of the show. For now, we have arrived at Act three of our program, Act three, good cop, bad cop.
So as an American visiting Hong Kong for the first time, one of the things that kind of killed me was hearing that before the last few years of protests, people were really into the police, like they were trusted, they were respected.
And it was only the last few years, especially the last few months of protests that changed all that.
At a rally, I actually saw people chanting at a row of cops that they hoped that they and their families would die and feelings about who to side with the police or the protesters, they've gotten so intense it's tearing families apart.
On the telegram app, there's a whole channel for protesters who get kicked out by their parents and need a place to live.
Alan, you grew up in Hong Kong.
Who knows a family that is very far apart on this. The son is a protester. The dad is a retired police officer now and had them sit down and do what nobody in Hong Kong is doing, talk to each other.
There's really no dialogue between police and protesters anywhere in Hong Kong, as far as we could tell.
And can I say, listening to the story today. Nine months after we first broadcast it, after weeks of protest against police violence across the United States, I really do wonder how common this kind of experiences in our country.
Anyway, here's how I've known this family since I was six. I knew them because of my friend Jonathan. I rode the school bus with him every day. His father, Peter, was the first policeman I knew in your life.
I was excited to talk to him because you never hear what the police think about the protests. Police here are not really allowed to talk to the press.
Peters retired, but still very connected to the force.
So before the family all sat down together, I asked Peter to get together with me and my producer, Emmanuel.
I hadn't seen him since I was 12.
Back then, people called me Rickon, which means fishbowl because the Cantonese for fish sounds like Mester. And they knew. And because I was fat.
I won't recognize you on the street. Oh, OK. Serious. OK. All right. I have. Yes. As a compliment. Thank you. He's very cute.
Just very fat as a kid. I like Peter. He take time off work to stop by during recess and buy us chips and other snacks. My friend Jonathan would have his birthday parties at the police station, which we loved, big barbecues.
Other policemen around Peter was the cool dad.
People in Hong Kong trusted, even revered the police back then.
One of the most popular TV shows was a cop show. Paul Tong Sieda, where the police were heroes. PETA's hair is gray now.
He's tall, athletic. He plays tennis. My, my. My nickname in tennis. I don't know why my nickname in tennis is Federer. Better. Further. Federer. Roger. I don't know why. Maybe my skill. I don't know. I don't know why he still likes his dad jokes.
I cannot imagine Peter ever doing what I've been seeing in these videos, beating up unarmed protesters, kicking people on the ground. I thought surely he would object to some of those things and that his views would be complicated.
From what you've seen, you know, in recent months has surfaced, anything that the police have done that you think you would disagree with? Nothing is perfect, but s as a whole. In general. I think the police are doing doing a pretty good job. If it is in other police force, in other countries, you know.
Just look at the casualties. Look, look, just look at the column of fatal, you know, numbers. It will it won't be zero. I ask him about different situations, the police have been criticized for it. In fact, I even show him videos of police brutally arresting people.
You know, things I think are clearly wrong. But he always seems to have a justification for the way police behave. He says you're judging the police based on what you see in these clips. That's not fair. You don't know what the officer was facing. The social media only showed the part of police hitting people.
But one minute ago would be a tech by lots of people. So one minute later, he reacted to to the to the mob, you know, attacking them. So what you can see is one minute after. But you did not see the full picture. Know he's not conflicted about police and he isn't very sympathetic to protesters.
He thinks the protests are destroying Hong Kong. The extradition bill is OK. He doesn't think China will end free speech in Hong Kong. And protesters fear of China is way overblown and naive.
Hong Kong based part of China. Come on, back up, people. Back up. Does this affect whether China is good or bad? Hong Kong is part of China. If you don't like it, those people waving the United States, Fred, waving the Union Jack Freck. If anyone takes you, you can go to it. You can go to England. Yeah, you can go to Florida. Go to California. Yeah, go. Go.
If Trump takes you. Yeah, go. I'd already been worried how this family conversation was going to go. Hearing what Peter believed did not help.
Peter told me he understands that Jonathan goes to protests but doesn't ask him about it because he doesn't want any details. Jonathan said that he does not ask his dad what he thinks of the way police beat and teargassed protesters for the same reason.
It is like if he says something. You even have something that is like completely doesn't make sense to me. It sort of brings him down, like I said, as a person. It's just like I would feel like he's just. Yeah. Not not who I thought he was. Yeah. Like scares you. Do you think that could be you?
So this family does not talk about the protests at all. Tennis? Yes, soccer. Yes. Pat's great.
But no politics till tonight.
They've agreed to have the conversation. They've been avoiding after dinner. Jonathan's mom, Tulba, washes the dishes.
I recognize the song right away. I'm surprised she's humming it in front of Peter. It's a protester's new anthem.
Glory to Hong Kong. Alpha is on Jonathan's side.
He she works with lawyers, including some in the pro-democracy camp.
I ask if Peter knows what that song is. She says maybe you should go.
That's kind of how it's been going between her and her husband.
No rEU discussion, but the occasional passive aggressive comment.
Why were they watching the news or some passive aggressive humming during dishes? This is another reason Jonathan avoids bringing up the protests.
He doesn't want to start a fight between his parents. What were the worst scenario be like?
Someone moving out, I guess. Yeah. Because they can't stand it anymore. Yeah, I guess. Living a part would be the worst case scenario. I believe. Because that. Right, sort of officially means that you no longer to get it sort of.
Yeah, that could be his mom or his dad or him. We all sit at the dinner table. I don't know why they we just talk about this. Maybe just because I've known them for so long and I asked or I hope so. Maybe part of them wanted to talk and I was just a good excuse.
Peter's facing me and Jonathan and Alva are next to me. Jonathan has their dog, Loki, named after the Marvel character on his lap.
I'll standpoint. The conversation started with all of them saying in different ways, it's fine that we don't talk about this.
We all have mutual respect and a mutual respect. There are two evil.
Instead of talking to each other or looking at each other, they're talking to me or looking at the dog. God, it feels all very careful, proper and calm.
Boy, this continues for half an hour.
Then everything changes when Peter uses the word compromise.
A compromise. Paul hit high compromise.
It's basically the government line. That's what Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, says, that the protesters should stop protesting and also that the two sides can talk.
I see Alva and Jonathan here that as meaning the protesters should back down. They both lay into Peter Lihua.
You right here. Hi, Mom. Come on, my arms.
I'll come tomorrow. Yeah, I learned at the ALGOL High-Level Job Engine, Dotun Alva says the police are the ones who need to change.
They have to calm the situation. Peter says the police are doing their job. I don't know why. When the police arrest people for fighting or breaking stuff, it's treated as weird. It's illegal. So arrest them.
No problem. How can anybody choma go on Vaka Murray of Vollertsen?
Jonathan says, okay. Yes. Arrest them. But how much force does the police need to use? Sometimes a person just asks the police a question and they still get arrested or beaten up.
People who are already on the ground, kneeling, subdued, based. They'll get beaten down. Peter doesn't respond.
Then they argue openly argue for the first time about one of the protesters main demands, something the government refused to budge on to start an independent investigation into police behavior.
So you divert Batonga, Pavarotti there.
Peter keeps repeating the same thing over and over. It's like he's been backed into a corner that there's no need for independent investigation.
Now is not the right time.
I see how. Jose. Good to see you.
The city already has a system in place sought to investigate complaints about the police coming in, what you do on your days gone by.
So they talk a little longer, but it doesn't go anywhere.
Alva tells me later she and other things she could have brought up but decided against it. She didn't want her husband's a few traps. The word she used was Sakal, which translates as that corner. No place to go. Preserving the family was more important to her than trying to win an arguments. Later, Jonathan told me he still loves his dad, but he's given up hope that his father could be a reasonable human being, at least when it comes to the police.
When I started this, I was kind of naive. I thought maybe Jonathan and his mother and father, people who actually wants to understand each other, could talk about this in a productive manner and that if they could, maybe there was hope that the rest of us could. But now I don't have a lot of hope. I knew he's normally a reporter for W.H y why show the pulse? Jonathan, his brother Chris and Alva are now thinking seriously about leaving Hong Kong.
Peter. Act for slow boat to China. So what about all the people living in Hong Kong who have no problem with China, who like China? There's a lot of them. And they hold their own demonstrations, which are pretty small, like parties where flash flashmob show up at malls and wave Chinese flags and seeing the Chinese national anthem.
And the big day to celebrate China normally would be October 1st, National Day, the anniversary of the Communist Party founding the modern Chinese state. And this year is going to be a big one. It was the seventieth anniversary and the people who support mainland China were kind of resentful because this day was supposed to be this huge holiday for them. But anticipating massive protests. The city shut down. Fireworks were cancelled. Trains weren't running. Almost all the malls were gonna be closed.
The protesters had ruined the day. Again. So in defiance, the pro China people organized an anthem singing party for the morning of the first hour, co-worker Diane Woo went.
The party took place at eight thirty in the morning on a boat. Not just any boat on the Star ferry. This iconic Hong Kong commuter slash sightseeing boat on the harbour. The ferries are these beautiful old boats from colonial times with names like Silver Star, Northern Star, Twinkling Star. And today one of them is going to get completely covered with bright red Chinese flags. A couple dozen people are gathering at the ferry terminal. They're mostly strangers, know each other loosely from previous flash mobs and get togethers.
Oh, I love China. They show up, support the police. Oh, yeah. Kind of funny when you think about it, all these people up so early on their day off getting on a boat to sing the national anthem together. It's also a little dark because there's a real threat of violence against people who don't support the protest. One of these flag parties two weeks ago, Ademar, devolved into a brawl when protesters showed up. People on both sides got beat up.
And so going out on a ferry to shout Progenies slogans is strategic. Once you're on the boat out at sea, you ought to be safe from a counter protest.
As one guy put it, well, we've been living in terror for the last three months because the people on the other side. The rioters, they're really good at the terrorizing tactics. They make you feel that you should be afraid of speaking up and speaking out against them because they're so organized and then terminal.
Everyone gathers in a semicircle holding special holiday issues of the China Daily and singing the Chinese national anthem together.
It's a little shaky. The guy leading it told me he just learned the words a couple weeks ago. Most of the people here, best as I can tell, are not mainlanders who grew up with the anthem. The ones I talked to were all from Hong Kong. Being this into China is new for them, something that only happened when the protests got bad enough that they found themselves rallying around this new flag. And it's not always comfortable. I'm getting on the boat with Daniel, the guy who is griping about being terrorized.
When someone puts a heart shaped sticker on him, he's got a Chinese bike sticker stuck on you.
Yes. Yes. I feel a little fringy about this. Why know that can read compared to a lot of people here. I'm not the most red person.
Red in the crown box of the Hong Kong protests refers to being pro China versus blue for the government and yellow for the protesters. Daniel almost didn't come this morning, actually. It's not really has seen he's he's being less patriotic about China. It's kind of dorky.
Moreover, I always tell my friends I would never want to live in China because there's a lot of things in China that I can accept.
If I were to be forced to live in China, the two things he can accept that we end up talking about are the lack of free speech and censored access to the Internet.
I know, but the truth is, I live in Hong Kong and I get to retain my almost unchecked freedom for 28 more years. And it's such a sweetheart deal for Hong Kong people.
I pointed out to him that after 28 years, it's very possible those freedoms would disappear. That's freedom. And he had the same response that I heard from other people who don't like the protests. He was like, well, sure, maybe. Well, I guess you're talking me to appreciate a young people's perspective. But. But in exchange for the freedom that they fight for. Wreaking havoc and they're destroying law and order.
And in the balance, it's not worth it to you. If I were to choose between this, if China say, in order to have law and order, I will need to sacrifice the freedom the same way Chinese people have in Hong Kong. I will accept that this is unacceptable. The whole unorganized chaos, revolution and the it they brought in Hong Kong is complete unacceptable. I will give up the freedom the way they do in China to stop this.
It's a big jump from I could never live in China to. I would sacrifice my freedom just to get this to stop.
But the intensity of the protests and his frustration with what he's experiencing in the city have driven him to at least try on this extreme idea.
Daniels, 40, works in finance.
He lived in the U.S. for 12 years. He's a football fan. Writes for the Chicago Bears because he likes the tenacious defense. He says he wasn't politically involved before all this went to one of the big peaceful protests last spring. Mahto watch then to participate. But that changed one day when he was watching a livestream of the young protesters storming the Legislative Council. He was surprised how ferocious they seemed.
How even the police officers looked a little scared and that at that moment, I suddenly realized, oh, we're actually very close to a revolution that could happen. It's just never occurred to me that Hong Kong would go through. That is both stun and anxiety about a no anxiety. You know, things things can change abruptly. If there isn't a revolution. It's going to force the hand of the Chinese government to crack down on it violently and that anything can happen.
Like, I could lose all the privilege I have as a Hong Kong citizen, protection of common law, freedom of speech, but also freedom of speech protected by common law. No, not nobody in China enjoy this freedom. But if it gets to a if it gets to a certain point, we can lose all of these privileges, which I treasure.
He woke up the next morning to see that the coverage was wall to wall about police brutality. To Daniel, it seemed like everyone was leaving out the fact that the protesters had started it, which seemed deeply unjust to the police.
And that's when I started turning blue. When I when I felt that the police were smear unfairly, I took my side. I chose to be on the police side.
Other people sided against the protest for different reasons. A big one I heard was the disruption they caused. The security guard told me he had to transfer four times to get home one night because of subway shutdowns. A woman trying to get cash out of an A.T.M. that had been destroyed by protesters said, if you're mad at the government, take it out on the government. You're only hurting people like me, a man said to me. Sadly, Hong Kong is our home.
Why are they destroying it?
The crowd on the boat finishes belting out the national anthem a second time when suddenly everyone rushes to the railing. Everyone's waving at this sea. Police ran to one side of the boat. Everyone crammed together on one side in a position that's a little precarious. That's kind of like Daniel's world right now. He felt pushed to choose a team, like it or not. These are his new people. He doesn't think like them exactly, but he feels more aligned with these Chinese nationalists on this boat waving at the police than with the angry protesters ganging up on them.
Even if those protesters ultimately want the same thing he does to preserve their freedoms in Hong Kong.
Sitting on the upper deck of the star ferry, this was actually the first time Daniel had ever song the national anthem in public. He told me later, as he sang, he was surprised to find that he felt something.
Diane Woo! She talked to Daniel last week with the passing of the national security wall. He blames the protesters for killing the Hong Kong that he cherished, but says he accepts it as the only viable future. One of the first things, by the way, that he did when he found out about the law passing was change his Facebook profile back to his real name. Now he feels protected from the mob. At five. Nine months later. So, as we said, China's new national security law from Hong Kong went into effect this month.
Or if you wanna get technical about it. One hour before the month began. And two days into the month, they reached Jennifer. The protester that you heard in the first half of the show, she told me that since we recorded her in the fall, protests have gotten a lot smaller. Nothing like what we witnessed back then. And she has kept protesting, she said, but less often, maybe once a month or so. She does mean that she had thought that China may crack down some day like this, like it did with the new ah just didn't expect it so soon.
She thought they had years for any expression of dissent can be punished like a camera.
Now, that sort of thing it came into my mind was, oh my gosh, this is primarily from me. And to be honest, it's so. So. It it felt so helpless and. He could not do anything to stop this from happening any more. Yeah. Have you noticed changes in the city already, like at restaurants and signs and posters and things like that?
So I am on. I just got off the bus and I am walking on my way, going back home. Now, what I'm seeing on my way back to home, like everywhere, is hanging with China. China and also Hong Kong flag with banners and posters around, say, supporting nachos and currency, lol. So that's what I've seen physically changing.
And the Chinese flag, was it there three days ago? I didn't see it yesterday.
It wasn't there. Yes. I knew I was not there yesterday.
And then now we have a lot like that. Erik Prince and supports the government's decision. And has that make you feel all, oh, just really like. We cannot say anything that gains the government in Anbar. The side that is. Like fighting against the government has to disappear. And then there will be only one opinion and one type of thinking in this city in the future. So it is kind of sad, actually. Well, you still go to protests.
I think it really depends on what kind of the process is for and. How the security law will be implemented and used in the future, I think is it will still take me a period of time to observe how it is being actually taken into action. I don't want to say I don't want to give up at this moment yet. I still hope that there will be a chance to change something. But then for me, the law has passed.
Like for a day only, and there are still many unknown variation. So deep down in my mind, I still wish to be around to protest, to grab the chance to change some things. But to be honest, I don't really have any idea if I could actually still go out in the future. How scared are you? EONIA. I am very scared right now. You know, they are saying that for import in case they could actually skip Hong Kong's court, like we could be directly sent to mainland for their judiciary.
Right. Are there other parts of the law that worry you a lot? Oh, there's one verse, one ref saying Hong Kong. Even I am in the country. I have said anything that could possibly defy a rule if it is called dividing the country. Like saying something anti government or anti public against. I could still be illegal. Yeah, there is something very abstract to me. I only know how how is being defined and where is blind.
I don't know if I will cross the line. Even without being noticing. So that if something really like I am afraid of the slow. Did you feel like the pro-democracy movement will come to an end very soon? I think it will be. I think it will be like it is like a repeat of history, like the Fourth of July. Litefoot, 4th of June is Tenement Square. People fought very hard, and then we had the Chinese government oppressing people, using military force.
And then like many years, 30. Like so many years later, you see there are so many people supporting the government, like supporting the Chinese government already. And I think this history will be repeating. Hong Kong is slow. Like soon after. Our next generation maybe will become those people supporting the government like we are marking right now. They will probably say, oh, I support Chinese government and support companies. They made our life good. I want to leave Hong Kong.
If that day comes. I wish I could leave Hong Kong there. Do you think there's a chance you could. I try to, but I don't know how hard it will be. Now I need to check if I am eligible. So that is really unknown for me right now, but I will be exploring the chance to do so.
Do you have lots of friends who are leaving or trying to leave?
Yeah, I do like my close coworkers. They are all like planning migration to Australia. So I'm planning to go to London. And then some of my friends have decided to go to Canada already. Really, quite a lot of people around me are leaving. Like everyone, I'm finding a way out of here. Do you have any feeling of relief? Like this has been going on for so long with no end in sight. But if this law kicks in in the way that you're saying, you know, now you're at a point where you could say, OK, we've done everything we can do.
It's impossible to do anything else. We know we're not going to make progress and we have to stop. Do you feel any relief from that? No, it won't be. It can't be a relief. We are being suppressed so that we can speak so that that can not be in relief. That is something that is more a suppression like even straight church suppression. So that can't be a relief.
I'm asking that question because Emanuel talked to somebody in Hong Kong and that's what they said. They said, OK, well, if this is how it's going to end, well, at least it's a relief that it's over, you know.
Yeah, like, I do think that there are people thinking in this way. Right. That is not what we call it. Like cooking a frog in the pot. With warm water, I don't know how this has been described it. No, no, no, we we we have that same thing in English. Yeah. Where the water gets warmer and. Really. Yeah. And then.
And then the who never really realizes like, oh, I should get out of the pot. And then and I've also read like maybe that's not even true.
Maybe it's do jump out of the pool.
But then then I do think that some people would thinking this way, like they were saying, at least we've tried. Something like that. But before me, myself, that can't be a relief. Like Elf. The movement ends. That is something that we warn our next generation to remember. This has actually happened in Hong Kong. So that can be a relief. I will never feel relief. You know, in the fall, we talked about how how it felt like there's this there's this is cock and this sort of 50 year countdown to Hong Kong losing its autonomy.
Do you think by protesting? You made this change happen faster than it would have happened. To be honest, I like I think maybe the majority was saying the way that I am thinking is that our rebellion would like make the Chinese government not do anything because of the international like feels international opinion, international support.
We thought that the movement was slow down, might come down. None of us half expected that it will like fast ending up.
You started the movement to slow the car down and you didn't think it would make it go faster. Yeah.
Yeah. Like it was supposed to happen on the 50 years. Like the 15th year. Then maybe with the Chinese government ambition, it was going to happen in the fortieth year. But then now it's like even earlier. So that is totally out of expectation. And much worse. Yeah. Do you regret protesting? Seeing that. No, really. I'm not regret for doing it like this. We all knew that we were only fighting for that tiny chance.
And even if we failed, at least we tried. So it is really so sad. Like like we could not get what we wanted. The situation is even worst, worse than the time that we started the whole movement. But then everything we've been doing is now I can't say it is wasted, cause this one air have changed many people's like in a good way or in a bad way. So I wouldn't say it is wasted.
The Politico's globe in Hong Kong is totally changed how people see the trailer and then the society changed a lot. So is still worth it. And we have made a declaration to the world that we don't want the Chinese government to come. That is the statement that we are making. Even though we failed, even though we are being controlled by the government. We still don't want to let others feel that we won and we enjoy it. No, we don't.
We fought against it, just that we failed. So the world knows that we don't want it. That's Jennifer in Hong Kong. I'm going to end our program today with a recording of the last protest that any of us attended with Jennifer. This was back in October in a soccer stadium where she sang along with the protest anthem. Glory to Hong Kong this week. The song was banned from schools.
Is one of the movement's most popular slogans, Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of Our Times. Last week, chanting, the slogan was declared illegal under the new law by the Hong Kong government. We told you. So I know that I'm sticking to now that it's raining. Lee's weapon was produced today by Emmanuel Burián and Diane. Our brilliant field producer in Hong Kong was Yenny Chan. Thanks to our interpreters for Chang, Diana Chan and Dominic Yang. The people who put together a show today includes on the Baker, Susan Burton, Zoe Chace, David Chevies, Sean Cole, Damien Grave, Michelle Harris, Jessica Larson, Hot.
Miki Meek, Linda Mitzi's CEO Nelson, Katherine Mae Mondo. Ben Feiglin, Nardy, Raymond Robin semiannually, Sullivan, Christopher Satava and Matt Tierney. Additional production by Nor Gale and of even the Cornfeld. Our executive producer is David Kestenbaum. Special thanks today to Dave Hill for the cover of the theme of the cop show. Armed Reaction. Special thanks to all around. Sure. Karen Chang, Howard Wang, Nobre, Wang Yu Soucie Pay. Allina Beatty, Guiyang Fan and Martin Lee.
Our Web site, This American Life dot org. This American Life is delivered public radio stations by PR X, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks as always, your Brigham's co-founder, Mr. Trey Moutier. You know, he'll never forget his first time on a carousel where he tells a story, gets on a horse and starts to go around.
At that moment, I suddenly realize, oh, we're actually very close to a revolution that could happen. I'm IRA Glass. Back next week with my stories of this American life.