A video of a photojournalist shouting at police during the extradition protests in Hong Kong has gone viral.
In the video, posted on June 12 by Twitter user @HongKongHermit, a photographer is seen shouting at police officers who are preparing to use tear gas on journalists. The scene took place on Harcourt Road in Hong Kong during massive demonstrations against a bill that would allow extraditions to China.
“Press! You’re shooting at the press!” the photographer, a bald man who appears to be his 30s or 40s, is first heard yelling in the video. He is seen on a ramp, facing police officers on the road below. Some officers are heard yelling, “Get out!” When one appears to make a move to discharge pepper spray at the photographer, the photographer taunts, “Do it! Do it!”
“Still Hong Kong, not China. Not yet,” the photographer says.
The video has already racked up more than 500,000 views and drew wide support from online users, who called him “brave” and a “warrior.”
“I was literally cheering for him when he said these things,” one user wrote.
“Thanks for speaking up for the HK people,” another responded
“I wanted to protect my fellow journalists who were being targeted by police”
The France 24 Observers team tracked down the photographer, who requested anonymity to avoid further public scrutiny.
It had been very tense that morning between journalists covering the protests and the police. They were hostile, verbally aggressive and constantly tried to intimidate us.
The scene happened in late afternoon, when the police started spraying tear gas at the crowds. I was on top of the ramp and saw that they were spraying at Hong Kong journalists lower down. It landed about a meter away from the journalists, it was pretty dangerous. I felt that something bad was going to happen and so I started shouting to distract them, so that they’d leave the journalists to do their job.
[When I shouted ‘Do it!’], it was spontaneous. I saw one of the officers reloading his weapon with pepper spray and pointing it toward me. So I provoked him to show him that it’s not okay to use that against journalists in a democratic state like Hong Kong. He might have been worried about all the cameras, because he didn’t end up discharging it.
There wasn’t a single moment when I thought it might be dangerous. I just wanted to protect my fellow journalists in Hong Kong. It’s important to remember that some officers, especially the anti-riot police, have been much tougher with Hong Kong journalists than European ones. They’re quick to hit them and spray them, and are less aggressive toward us.
The photographer said he realized he had gone viral when a person stopped him in the street the next day and said they had recognized him. Others asked to take a photo with him.
“A lot of people commented on the fact that I was European,” he said, adding that some people who had mistaken him for a Frenchman had suggested he return to France to cover the Yellow Vest protests.
On Twitter, some users noted that the photographer was less likely to face repercussions from his actions because he was not a Hong Kong native.
He “is probably only safe because he’s clearly foreign,” one user wrote. “Not sure the same happy ending would have been the result if he were Chinese and screaming these words “DO IT! DO IT” in Chinese.”
Confronted by the most violent mass protests in years, several lawmakers in Hong Kong have broken from the state’s leader, Carrie Lam, and asked for a delay on the bill. Protest organizers have called for another demonstration this Sunday.
This story was written by Alexandre Carpon (@alexcapron).