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On 1 July when protesters stormed the Legislative Council, our reporters were there this whole time to witness the entire ten-hour takeover.
Two overarching labels-“violent” and “condemnable”, were used by the establishment to bury the protesters’ pleas. Action-packed footage recording the vandalisation of the solemn meeting place of the Legislature had also caught more eyeballs than the protesters’ political agenda/motivation.
Dear all — to you who is all set to emigrate from this country, and to you who cannot hold yourself any longer from criticising these “rioters”, please take a moment to hear out what this group of teenage Hongkongers had been risking ten years of their precious youth in prison to stand up for. With a recorder pen, hk.feature reveals the occupiers’ dilemma and restores the original soundtrack of the inner voice of their hearts — To stay or not to stay, t’was the question.
Events that took place on 1 July 2019 near Admiralty paralleled the choices Hong Kongers faced: You could take a left or right at the crossroad after the march, just like you could leave or stay in Hong Kong for residence.
21:20 The Takeover
After six hours of attempting to shatter the glass doors at the Legco demonstration area, just before protesters succeeded in entering the building, it was suspected that one of them threw an unknown object at the police inside the building through a narrow gap at the gate. The object released white gas, prompting the police to retreat, which was unknown to the protesters outside. According to a legislator, there were approximately a hundred police officers standing by at the entrance.
As soon as the protesters stormed into the Complex, they sprayed the word “withdraw” in Chinese character on the wall with paint while others ran in all directions. Some searched floor by floor solo for signs of “dogs” (aka cops) hiding. In the first hour of the occupying, protesters targeted at vandalising the portraits of current and previous Legco presidents. The first to suffer was the incumbent Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s painting, followed by that of Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who was the first president since the handover. Demonstrators also painted the faces in the pictures in black and ripped off the photo frames to express their anger apart from kicking and stomping on the paintings.
When they entered the main chamber, demonstrators sought to destroy the president’s seat and the HKSAR emblem above it. Some had eagerly written slogans that translated as “revoke the functional constituency” and “sunflower Hong Kong” next to the president’s seat. They wanted to cover the emblem with the Hong Kong flag during the British rule, but eventually settled with crossing out the words “People’s Republic of China” and the emblem with black ink once it was realised there were not enough tapes.
To stay or not to stay: the start of the debate
The clock was approaching ten in the evening when the atmosphere in the chamber began to turn calm as the number of protesters entering the chamber had started to reduce. The two hours ensuing was dominated by the debate of “leaving/staying”.
22:20 At the main chamber
Amongst the first batch of protesters who stormed the chamber was a man in his twenties who took up some sort of a leader role. He led the chanting of slogans and instructed the crowd to “split themselves up, watchdog the stair entrances”. Since he learnt that the police would soon begin to disperse them, he stood up to advocate maintaining the occupation but was still open to others’ opinions.
“The police have announced that they would soon commence the clearance. Our aim is to gather enough people to occupy the place with our flesh, peacefully,” he said.
“Retreating is not an option for us as the cameras have already identified us each. We can’t lose no more. Therefore, we implore everybody to think carefully about how much risk and consequence you could shoulder. Please take your leave as soon as possible if you think legal repercussions are too much for you to bear. Please spread the news about the police’s imminent dispersal if possible,” he continued.
He added that “if we lose today, it will be a 10 years defeat for Hong Kong — student leaders will be arrested and there is no hope of having a civil society anymore. Why have we no courage to go one step further? Tomorrow, TVB will put us all on TV screens, call us rioters and accuse us of vandalism.”
“If we stand firm with the occupation here at Legco to protest against the extradition to China, it can become the legitimate cause of our actions. Thus, please spread not any unverified news. Evaluate how much sacrifice you are ready to make. For friends who have made up your mind, let’s stay here together,” he concluded. The crowd responded with a round of applause and exclamation of “add oil”.
22:40 at the main chamber
Rumours of “clearance” had circulated intermittently as people might shout “the dogs are here” (there are police) out of the blue, scaring off protesters in the chamber as well as those outside the building, propelling them in all directions for escape.
(A protester at the Legco lobby asked everyone to retreat)
A male protester spoke through a megaphone that “comrades” at Lung Wo Road would only go home if they retreated with them altogether. “It is pointless to insist on staying here since it does nothing but harm to our companions outside. We ain’t here to wreak havoc for fun — we have a clear demand and message to send to our government. We urge the government to serve the people and listen to their voices. We can’t let them do anything as they wanted. Hand off the power back to the people!” He chanted.
“Leave slowly and don’t injury the people at Lung Wo Road as many of them are congregated ‘under the pot’ (the Legco demonstration area). If we die, they all die together. Let’s go!” He ordered.
22:50 The announcement of the first manifesto
There were two groups of people occupying the Legco at around 11pm, one on the ground floor and one at the chamber. A petite girl in her twenties, holding the megaphone in shivers, announced the first manifesto. By that time, very few members of the press were present to film it since most were away filming footage of protesters moving police barriers or transporting supplies.
“We are now making a manifesto here,” she said. “There is no riot, nor are we rioters. Enunciating our demands to the government is our only intention.”
“First, we demand the revocation of the evil law. We say no to extradition to China. (The crowd responded with scattered slogans). Secondly, we demand the government to set up an independent commission of inv
estigation about the abuse of power of the Police force. Thirdly, we demand the government to free all the arrested protesters as they are not violent radicals but merely people who wished to protect their home. We shall reiterate that we are not rioters. We simply want to safeguard our homeland. I wish that our friends in the media would report the truth.”
“OK everyone, you may leave slowly, we only want … (imperceptible)…Most importantly, don’t leave anyone behind or alone. We cannot lose anyone, please,” said one of the male protesters.”
“We have come up with an agreement with those (who protest) in Harcott Road,” said the female protester, “They would only leave if we leave (the Legco). We cannot leave anyone behind. Together we advance, together we retreat. Thank you buddies.”
(“To leave together and leave nobody behind” was repeated countless times)
(At the same time, another group of protesters were moving the mills barriers and they were asking people to leave too…)
“We have won, HongKongers. Now let’s leave together, we can’t leave anybody behind!” said a man.
“Please tell the people upstairs that we are leaving,” he added.
At that time, there were still 30–40 people in the Chamber going in and out. Some who could not make up their minds came back in again while some left definitively. Notwithstanding any differences in the choices protesters made, the general consensus between protesters separated by the wallets of Legco was that “not a single person can be left out”.
23:00 The second manifesto after occupying the Legco
“The root problem of our society is that there is still no universal suffrage for electing the Legco and the Chief Executive. We demand a full universal suffrage by 2020. Uptil now since the anti-extradition law movement has started, three youngsters have already sacrificed their lives for the cause. Our hearts are connected to this place we call home and we devote our flesh to safeguard this place. We can’t have any more casualties dying for the democratisation of Hong Kong. Different sectors should stand in solidarity against the tyranny and the evil law to preserve the wellbeing of Hong Kong.”
Mr. Leung, the man who removed his mask made another manifesto.
We protesters come from different parts of the community and today we have decided to occupy the Legislative Council of the HKSAR. Multiple demonstrations, including a two million people rally, have been organised since June. In our midst, three young people have sacrificed their lives to plead with the government to revoking the evil extradition law.
Yet, the government had not only turned a deaf ear to our demands and the opinion of the general public but also decided to become the enemy of the people. The present HKSAR is no longer the government that Hongkongers could endorse since the Legco elections are not representative of the people’s voices and flawed given the existence of the functional constituency. It was the Legco’s reduction into the government’s tool of passing bills that had given birth to all sorts of political movements, also making today’s occupation inevitable. I hereby articulate our five pointer demands at the Legco: First, to revoke the law completely; Second, to retract defining this movement a riot; Third, to squash any indictments against any protesters involved; Fourth, to investigate the police force about their abuse of power and violence, and to set up an independent commission of inquiry; Lastly, in our opinions, the root cause of the problem Hong Kong faces is that there is no full universal suffrage for election of the Legco and the Chief Executive. We demand a full universal suffrage by 2020.
Since the anti-extradition law movement has started, three young people were martyred for the cause. Our hearts are connected to this place we call home and we devote our flesh to safeguard this place. We can’t have any more casualties dying for the democratisation of Hong Kong. Different sectors should work hand in hand against the tyranny and the evil law to preserve the well-being of Hong Kong.
An endless tussle: should the entrance be locked?
Remarks: The following part will be written in Script form. Most of the protesters will be named according to the characteristics identified and their role in the discussion, except for Leung who made the manifesto in the Legco chamber. For those voices that are unidentifiable, all of them will be named ‘Anonymous’.
(Somewhere at the back of the chamber near the entrance)
A man who masked himself in a piece of white cloth: We must leave before the people outside are dispersed. The lawmakers are safe staying here, cause it’s their office what the fuck. But what’s the point of us staying here?
Leung, the reader of the manifesto: The protesters in Lung Wo Road said they’d leave in 15 minutes.
Man in bike helmet: I heard it’d be at midnight instead.
Anonymous: Here is the situation. Staying here will be risky if the number drops below a certain threshold. We can consider to stay if there are 100–200 people. Otherwise, I suggest that we leave.
(Some of the protesters realised that there were only around 30 people inside the chamber, a number far less than a hundred)
White Cloth: Voting is not necessary for the current situation. People should leave whenever they feel insecure, especially our number is gradually decreasing. The Legco members have already stated they won’t stand up for us. Instead of staying here to obtain the moral high ground or halo, we should all leave and be well prepared for the next protest.
A Girl: If one of us insisted to stay, should all of us stay behind?
(More opinion raised: “We should grab them with us”, “we shouldn’t leave them behind,” “I will stay if anyone stays”.)
White Cloth: If I were a Legco member, I would stay on as long as there is one protester who decides to stay. If I were not one, I would grab them to leave with us. I will rather be called a “traitor” than to leave any comrades behind.
(The crowd responded “understood”, “I would like to say…” etc)
Long Hair with Glasses: I am not sure if that is possible for us to stay here until tomorrow morning with such limited resources. Nobody knows.
White Cloth: Tomorrow isn’t a public holiday. People have to get back to work.
Long Hair with Glasses: Indeed.
Anonymous: We can’t guarantee, How can we be sure?
To sacrifice 10 years of youthhood in prison for a couple of minutes
White Cloth: I did think of some consequences, but what can we do next? We have done our best, such as the “Three strikes” and “Parades”. It is rare to have a 550,000 — people parade today, but will they give up their work and come to Admiralty just to support us tomorrow?
Z: I am going to stay here, no matter what. I am planning for defensive measures in preparation for the arrival of the police later. I have locked the door of one side of the chamber, and I am ready.
Bike Helmet: Are you with a group of people or just you?
Z: I’ve got company.
Bike Helmet: OK. Got it.
Anonymous: Are you willing to sacrifice your future just for a couple of minutes?
White Cloth: Basically if the number of protesters remains at 50 or below, we will definitely be evicted before dawn.
Anonymous: That’s why I am not going to ask anyone to leave.
Anonymous: Will the press help us?
White Cloth: Can we ask the protesters at the ground floor to come into the chamber to support us?
Anonymous: No injury. No arrestment.
White Cloth: Stop saying something stupid. The front door of the Legco has been broken this afternoon, but they chose not to enter the building. Why? It is because they were frightened. If they were willing to, they would have entered in the afternoon. Right?
(“Retreat” said someone at the back.)
Anonymous: If we are staying here, we will need back up.
A man indicated that he would stay behind, and another protester patted him on his shoulder and saying “I will be staying too”. He added:
“Alright. Let me, who will be staying behind, say a few words.”
Leung: We have announced the first manifesto. We can only continue the occupation as long as people want us to do so. The number of protesters inside the building is far less than enough for an occupation.Therefore, we should seize the time to discuss how to continue this occupation and make it meaningful for the movement.
Anonymous: The stakes are lower to stay outside the chamber than the inside. Therefore, if they are willing to stay… in my opinion, the more people out there, the safer we are. Indeed, it would be much better if people are willing to come into the chamber.
Bike Helmet: If someone insists to stay inside the chamber no matter what, for those who will not stay, we need to stay at the ground floor as long as we could.
White Cloth: It is useless to guard the ground floor, you never know how many police are armed in the basement.
Bike Helmet: But it doesn’t make sense to leave them behind! Protesters outside might not be willing to come up, but they might be willing to stay outside. To guard Lung Wo Road and to guard the front door of Legco, these are the least we can do together.
White Cloth:We should at least call the people outside to come in.
Anonymous: Even if we are not here, we need people to stay out there.
Bike Helmet: Regardless of the consequences, we need to stay. The only question is whether we stay in the chamber or in the demonstration area and keep occupying the roads.
Leung: But still, the number of protesters here is not enough to make an occupation.
Bike Helmet: You can leave the chamber, but you need to stay in the demonstration area or occupy the roads at least.
Leung: I think we should leave the Legco now and decide what to do later.
Bike Helmet: By saying this I don’t mean you have to stay in the Legco, but we hope you can keep staying on the roads as long as you can.
Messenger from the ground floor: First of all, there’s news saying you will have a declaration at 11? (The protester discussing in the chamber answered “it is over.”) We, the people staying at the ground floor and occupying the roads, will stay until midnight, and we will leave together with you. Secondly, a protester who claims that one of his relatives is working for the police force says that the police will fire right after midnight. We should really get going…
Messenger from the ground floor: Would there be another declaration at 12?
The Man who insisted to stay: I am not sure about this. But if the police broke in, I would tell you about our actions with a statement.
White Cloth: There is still around 30 minutes to 12 am. If anyone deems this place unsafe or would like to retreat, safeguard their reputation or what-so-fucking-ever, the retreat gotta be before 12am. If we leave after 12 am…On behalf of the Hong Kong citizens, I would like to appreciate protesters who vowed to stay behind. They would be sacrificing themselves and their future prospects for this incident. If you think this is too hefty a cost, please leave before 12 am. There are still plenty of battles ahead.
Bike Helmet: Can someone reach the people downstairs?
White Cloth: Everyone, please stay at the entrance. Although I don’t know how many cops or arselickers are there in the garage, leave them alone until they really come to us. But please, everyone, stay and secure the frontline to support protesters inside the chamber.
Bike Helmet: Even if there is only one protester staying in the chamber, we cannot leave them behind.
White Cloth: Until the very last moment.
Anonymous: Have we come to a consensus that 12 am is the deadline of retreat?
Bike Helmet: Whenever there is remainder (protester) here (in the chamber), we have to stay till the last minute. How could we leave them alone?
(Gets more emotional) We are afraid of the consequences, so we leave the building. However, we have to stand fast at the entrance till the very last moment for the remainders. We must not leave the building before the remainders do…
We could retreat from the chamber, but not Admiralty. There are remainders staying behind as if they are going to sacrifice. We cannot afford losing a fourth protester this month! Let’s tell everyone downstairs WE ARE STAYING UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE and we are only leaving the chamber but not Admiralty!
Anonymous: No problem.
Bike Helmet: Pack your belongings if you are going to leave. For those staying behind, no one could ever thwart your decision. I would suggest standing firm in the entrance as there are more protesters downstairs so that we could better protect each other. Thank you everyone.
Anonymous: Legal assistance information here.
White Cloth: Better to have a lawyer with you when you are arrested. Are the supplies all good? Now, all we need is more protesters up here.
(The clock was ticking, and there were only 10 protesters remaining in the chamber)
The Man who insisted to stay: Having someone staying behind has certain symbolic meaning to it and the number of protesters staying doesn’t really matter.
White Cloth: They claimed that there is a lack of supply downstairs, there should be more than enough though.
The Man who insisted to stay: Let’s leave the supply for a minute. Taking back the control of Legco from the government is far more iconic and symbolistic than the supply itself.
White Cloth: Does that mean you are creating a symbolistic moment at the expense of your life or prospects?
(There was a round of uproar following the question: “We were well-prepared of it.”)
Bike Helmet: I think we should not transfer supplies up here, but hold on to the supplies from Admiralty. No matter how much food you gather up here, it will be used up in a few days. If the entrance could be secured, so the supply could continuously be transported. We could then have food and everything.
A Girl: We gotta leave…
Mask-Free Man: I don’t even bother wearing a mask. Either a great success or 8–10 years behind bars would come to us, I am well-prepared for everything since the day I came.
White Cloth: Do you guys have a lock and chain?
Bike Helmet: They do.
Protesters: I would rather die in Legco
There were discussions about whether the protesters should hold onto the Legco or Admiralty, about which some had tried to persuade others to retreat. A secondary school student reminded the remaining protesters of the legal repercussions, but then he was condemned to be spreading negativism.
The Secondary School Student: I am not encouraging people to leave! I merely reminded everyone to think twice before they act!
Anonymous: Is there a difference between the two?
Bike Helmet: They should have thought it through already!
Anonymous: It’s their call! Are you trying to divide us?
The Secondary School Student: So in your mind, telling others to leave equals dividing the group?
Bike Helmet: No, he didn’t mean that.
Anonymous: I understand your intention but they have their thoughts. Let the remaining protesters to make their own decision.
Anonymous: It’s almost deadline (12 am). Why don’t we shut up for a moment?
The Secondary School Student: I am standing here as well
Anonymous: We are just trying to be considerate to each other.
The Secondary School Student: Do you need my Student ID then? (Emotionally)
Anonymous: No… Just that everybody could make their own decision and we all fully understand the risks behind all these.
Bike Helmet: I am not leaving even if he who insists to stay stabs his neck here.
Anonymous: Everyone does understand that their decisions come with a price.
The Secondary School Student: I mean if there would be more protesters, at least outnumbering the journalists…(interrupted by a round of persuasion from the crowd) OK I got it. Yeah, I know, I understood.
(The student then helped distributing cards with numbers to different legal assistance hotlines was printed.)
Messenger from the ground floor: Once, the police start the clearance, we won’t be able to hold our defence. Please don’t put us, frontline protesters, at stake. We are responsible for far too many things out here. It is impossible to withstand the police for long, we are sorry. We would be arrested and bleed before you all do…
Anonymous: Let’s tell them the situation up here and they could make their choice.
Messenger from the ground floor: The protesters at the entrance don’t wanna leave any of you behind. You guys don’t pull back, and so won’t they.
Bike Helmet: Some of us are leaving soon, but you can’t change the minds of those who wanna stay. So, we could only protect them till the last moment. We have to respect their decisions.
Messenger from the ground floor: It is all the same…They will stay until all of you leave the chamber.
Bike Helmet: I understand but there is nothing I could do. You could try carrying them away when they fainted.
Messenger from the ground floor: The frontline protesters are STILL waiting.
Anonymous: There have already been a lot of discussions. We can’t change their mind and there’s nothing we can do.
Bike Helmet: Maybe you can just tell people at the frontline downstairs that some protesters will stay until the last minute.
Messenger from the ground floor: Would the protesters who wanted to leave accompany those staying behind?
Bike Helmet: We won’t. We all have our concerns.
00:00 ‘The Deadline’: Police clearance was imminent
The voices of “let’s leave together” were loud enough to be heard from the outside. An audience of hk.feature’s live broadcast has left comments online saying “Dear Mr Journalist, please tell them to leave. Where there is life, there is hope.”
At one critical moment, 30 protesters stormed into the Legco chamber out of the blue, roaring “leave together!” Some said “the police will be here soon, there’s no reason to stay, let’s leave together.” Some of them went to the front of the chamber and surrounded a male protester who insisted to stay. He tried to resist the crowd from pulling him away but was in vain. The crowd said “we really need to go now. Let’s leave together, shall we?”
Near the entrance of the chamber, a protester pointed his finger at those who tried to make him leave. “Step back! I have decided to stay here no matter what!” He said. Finally, it took five male protesters to carry him away. And that was how to three hour occupation of the Legislative Council has come to an end.
At 1 am, the journalists took the last train home with the protesters. In the MTR train compartment, protesters with bags of supplies chanted “retreat together”. One chanted “Hong Kong” followed by another responding “fighting”. The chants continued throughout the entire journey.
(Latest news update: The Hong Kong police have arrested 11 men and one woman aged between 14 to 36 for offences that range from “Possession of offensive weapons”, “Unlawful assembly”, “Assaulting a police officer”, “Obstructing a police officer”, “Violation of Air Navigation (HK) Order 1995”…etc for the incident took place at the Legislative Council complex.)