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tv   Witness  LINKTV  May 8, 2022 9:00pm-9:31pm PDT

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♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ sophie mcneill: for three months, the people of hong kong have taken to the streets. [shouting] famous for being orderly and law-abiding, everyday hongkongers are now putting themselves on the front lines.
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yoyo: we can be radical sometimes, we can also be very, very peaceful as long as our demands are heard, but one message is that none of us will quit the fight. joshua wong: hong kong is just similar as east berlin in the last century under authoritarian rule. now is the time for us to fight back, let the world to know that we are the ones stand in the forefront to confront beijg suppression. johnson yeung: i do hope hong kong movement can serve as a beacon that tells mainland chinese we can live better than just submitting to the terror of beijing. sophie: tonight on "four corners," we take you inside hong kong's rebellion, as ordinary citizens across this
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city rise up to reject beijing's control. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ sophie: one minute it looks like any normal saturday afternoon in hong kong. the next, protestors suddenly spill out from the train station and start shutting down this massive intersection. [shouting] sophie: they're known as netizens, citizens who connect online.
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this act of civil disobedience was organized on an encrypted app. sophie: the ones building the barricades are the frontliners of the movement. umbrellas are used to keep their identities secret.
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sophie: with the roundabout blocked, it won't be long before the police arrive. sophie: they decide it will be easier to overwhelm the police if they split up.
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[police sirens] [protestors shouting] sophie: so, the protest leaders have just shouted out that the riot police are coming, so they've told all the crowds to get on the train and to leave this location and to move somewhere else. [shouting] sophie: the riot police turn up and start firing tear gas. [shouting]
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[police shouting through bullhorn] sophie: the forces are ready for action, but there is no one to arrest. the protestors have melted away. the only ones left here are annoyed residents, and it's the police they're angry with.
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[speaking foreign language] male: i support the protestor, yeah. i think they have no other way to do it. this is a peaceful protest. they're asking for what they want. they all think about hong kong's future, but the government is nonsense. sophie: this is just the first stop of the night. defying bans from police, separate groups hit different locations across the city. ♪♪♪
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♪♪♪ sophie: ten kilometers away, the protestors pop up here on nathan road, one of hong kong's busiest shopping districts. they have to keep moving. [speaking foreign language] passersby help the protestors avoid the police. sophie: protestors use pseudonyms to protect their identities. twenty-four-year-old engineer "tom" spends his days in a suit
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working on hong kong island. at night, he's one of the movement's frontliners. sophie: are you scared about being arrested? ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ sophie: the protests that have exploded onto these streets for the last three months have grown out of years of frustration and fears over the steady loss of freedoms for hongkongers. louisa lim: hong kong has enjoyed all kinds of freedoms that really aren't possible on the mainland: the independent
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judiciary, the independent civil service, also freedom of the press, freedom of expression. these are things that hongkongers have traditionally joyed, although in recent years those freedoms have been shrinking. houting] sophie: this is not the first time hongkongers have taken to the streets. in 2014, the umbrella movement emerged, demanding fully democratic elections in hong kong. johnson: hongkongese was always understood as economic animals who care about their gain, who cares about their own money and not caring the others. that was not the case in the umbrella movement. kevin yam: after the umbrella movement, they started limiting who can or can't run for office. they started prosecuting a lot of people for taking part in
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protests, that sort of thing, and i think that's when the world really started taking notice. [speaking foreign language] joshua: under the hardline leadership of president xi, lawmaker were unseated and kicked out of office. activists, including me, were in prison and jailed for several years. [speaking foreign language] joshua: it's really impressive by hong kong people. after the crackdown on human rights, after loss of political leer, they still do not step backward. male: hail, hong kong. hail, hong kong. sophie: so, earlier this year when chief executive carrie lam proposed a new law which could see hongkongers extradited to the mainland to face beijing-style justice, the people rose up.
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male: no extradition to china. no extradition to china. sophie: in june, an estimated 2 million marched against the bill, the largest protest in the city's history. [shouting] sophie: "gotham," a high-school student, joined the movement. sophie: the government suspended the bill
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but refused to officially withdraw it, further infuriating many hongkongers. yoyo: when 2 million came out and the government still refused to directly address or respond to the people, and we realized that, hey, it's the government who did not or refused to answer the people, and it's a structural problem that can only be solved by democracy. [shouting] sophie: on july 1, the 22nd anniversary of the island's handover from the united kingdom to china, protestors stormed the legco, hong kong's government chambers. mp fernando cheung tried to stop protestors breaking in.
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fernando cheung: when i saw the crowd try to storm into the legco, trying to break the glass door, i thought, "no, that shouldn't happen,"ecause any type of violence like that, even though they were not directed to any person, it may make the movement lose its momentum and public support. hong kong is a very peaceful society. they wanted to sacrifice themselves to bring changes. they wanted to be arrested, so it was really saddening to see a lot of young people not seeing any way out. [alarm ringing] [shouting]
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sophie: the protestors took over the house and read out their demands to the government. louisa: i went inside the chamber, but i was also outside the chamber and outside the building. for someone like me who grew up in hong kong, that was a really shocking moment. kevin: you saw that they were very specific about what they were vandalizing. they were all symbols of political authority that's been
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acting in a, you know, egregious manner. then you saw the way they put up signs saying "don't vandalize library books. don't vandalize antiques. we're not thieves. please pay for your drinks." and at that point i think that melted the resistance of a lot of moderate pro-democracy supporters. fernando: to my surprise, the public support was still very much there even after they stormed into legco building. this slogan of not being divisive and that we stay together whether we are the peaceful ones or the more radical ones, we stay together in the movement, seems to be working. louisa: there was one pillar inside the building,
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and the words that were spray- painted on it in chinese were, "you have taught us that peaceful action is not effective." and i think many people believe that. ♪♪♪ sophie: the movement added a key demand to their platform: universal suffrage, democracy for hong kong. ♪♪♪ louisa: what started off as a relatively targeted, relatively simple protest has really expded into something much, much bigger. ♪♪♪
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sophie: in many ways, hong kong now resembles a city in open rebellion, from a march for the elderly, to a protest by the city's lawyers, the medical community, and a civil servants strike. citizens across society have banded together to join the moment. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ fernando: we have people, really,
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all over the different sectors in hong kong participating and supporting this movement. in one arrest, the police arrested 40-some 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 many professionals. sophie: while almost daily peaceful protests continue, black-clad frontliners can appear at any time, ready for running battles with the police. the movement has no formal leadership. protestors vote online to decide what action to take.
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yoyo: anyone with an account of lihkg, the online forum that a lot of us use or read. there will be people, like, giving their ideas, and then they--like, they can respond by supporting or turning down or commenting how to improve that.
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sophie: as the protests have rolled on, authorities have restricted the sale of gas masks, goggles, helmets, and hard hats, both in stores and online, so a pop-up shop called national calamity hardware was set up to fill the gap.
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sophie: "tom" is joining the frontliners in tonight's action. barricades are being set up right in the city center. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪
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sophie: and what's down there? sophie: oh, the main police headquarters-- sophie: protestors use lasers to distract police officers and disrupt what they fear are facial-recognition cameras. sophie: the protesters are now starting to move back as we can see the police in the distance, and it looks like they're coming down straight towards us. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪
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sophie: bricks and molotov cocktails are among the arsenal used by frontliners. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ sophie: as the police advance, protestors head to the metro.
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[shouting] sophie: tear gas fired near the entrance has begun to seep in here. ♪♪♪ the protestors begin to disperse in different directions at astonishing speed, adhering to the slogan of their movement, which is "be water," to be formless and shapeless. ♪♪♪
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[crowd chanting] [crowd chanting] [speaking foreign language] sophie: after weeks of protests, tonight police change their tactics. a young man is jumped by undercover police dressed as frontliners. [speaking foreign language] [crying]
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sophie: at another location, a young woman is hit in the eye. in the metro, police fire tear-gas canisters only meters from protestors' heads, and then push them down the escalator and beat them. [shouting] [shouting] ♪♪♪ kevin: i thought sunday night was a major,
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major, major miscalculation on the part of the police. the police actions that night were completely unnecessary, and it just raised the temperature all over again. sophie: as news spreads of the violent arrests, residents come down from their apartments and join the frontliners, cursing the police. [shouting] [crowd chanting] sophie: in another neighborhood, locals surround a police van. [shouting]
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[police siren] [crowd cheering] sophie: so, the crowds have all started to cheer because the police are now retreating. louisa: hong kong's police force used to be thought of as the fine police force in asia, and people were generally quite proud of the police force, but in recent weeks we've really seen this, sort of, total loss of trust in the police. in some cases, triads--so, local gangs--have been used to beat up protesters, and the police have not intervened.
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they feel that instution of the police force is no longer necessarily safeguarding public order. it's doing political work. sophie: a popular uprising like this is beijing's worst nightmare. they have been rolling out a steady fear campaign, massing troops and tanks on the border with hong kong and showcasing their riot-control techniques. ♪♪♪ sophie: a fresh contingent of mainland troops has been sent to the pla garrison that is permanently stationed on the island. pro-beijing politicians are trying to downplay the chances of pla soldiers being deployed on hong kong's streets. holden chow: i don't think the pla would come in to deal

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