Moved by images on the news, a young ethnic Vietnamese resident of Hong Kong returned to the city from abroad to join protests on the front line, and was among those trapped in a police siege of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University in November, the young man’s mother says.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, the former Vietnamese boat person named Thao (not her real name) said that “Chan,” her son, was born and raised in Hong Kong and feels a strong loyalty to the city.
“He was educated in Hong Kong and has many friends here. They are of a younger generation, and want to protect the city,” said Thao, who arrived in Hong Kong as a refugee in 1988 and spent 10 years in a detention camp before being released.
“When he was in eighth grade, he said he didn’t want to go back to Vietnam, because he has no friends there,” she said.
When pro-democracy protests swept the city beginning in June, Chan saw many of his friends beaten by riot police and pro-Beijing civilian thugs, and decided to return home from his studies at a university overseas to join the protests, Thao said.
Alerted to Chan’s sudden disappearance by the dean of the university he had left, Thao said she contacted her son’s friends and learned that he had come home.
“He knew that I would not be happy, but he thought that he was doing something meaningful, and he felt that I would understand his decision because of my love for him,” she said.
Fears for her son
Worried for her son’s safety, Thao fell into a depression relieved only when he returned home each night, she said.
“I had to see a psychiatrist and take medication during the peak periods of protest, and once when my son didn’t return home for three or four days without contacting me, I naturally became very anxious,” Thao said.
“But the doctor told me that everyone has his or her own mission, and that when someone has decided to do something, it isn’t possible to stop them. I would need to be in good health to look after my son, and anxiety would only make things worse,” she said.
“After that, I felt a little better.”
Chan was among a group of students barricaded inside Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University during a police siege in November that saw riot police use water cannon and fire tear gas and rubber bullets in a bid to gain entrance to the campus.
Protesters meanwhile fired back Molotov cocktails and other projectiles using home-made catapults, at one point setting fire to an armored car that was advancing across a footbridge.
However, Chan left the campus at the urging of his friends after developing signs of toxic contamination on his body, Thao said, adding that before Chan left, she stayed in touch with him by mobile phone and brought packages of food to the school in the hope that he would get them.
“I was so terrified,” she said.
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people gathered in downtown Hong Kong to mark six months since pro-democracy protests began in the city in June.
Protesters have meanwhile continued to take to the streets in their hundreds of thousands, after a landslide victory of pro-democracy parties in last month's District Council elections.
The six-month mark is counted from June 12, when police use of tear gas and rubber bullets on unarmed, peaceful protesters, some of whom were trapped in enclosed spaces, prompted a public outcry, as well as renewed calls for democracy in Hong Kong, which has seen the erosion of its traditional freedoms since the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.