In the anti-extradition and pro-democracy protests that have shaken Hong Kong since March 2019, many young activists have positioned themselves at the forefront of the battle for the city’s freedom. David, or “Lunch Brother”, a 17-year-old high school activist, is one of them. His protests have attracted the attention of local media and netizens, and he has more than 28,000 followers on his Facebook page.

David first became known due to his regular participation in the 2019 “Lunch With You” pro-democracy protests, during which office workers protested on the streets during their lunch breaks. After China passed its National Security Law in June 2020, resulting in police clamping down on “political crimes” like secession and sedition, David continued his pacifist and mainly solo protests.

As police quickly quashed any attempts at dissent on October 1, China’s National Day, a photograph of David wearing his school uniform and quietly reading Apple Daily, a Hong Kong news publication, in a metro station surrounded by police went viral on Twitter.

“Glory to Hong Kong – I’ll love you forever and always”

David’s protests tend to be visual and symbolic. He either protests solo, or in small, masked and socially distanced groups. Hong Kong police have suppressed larger protests since the passing of the National Security Law, but small, peaceful gatherings are still tolerated, although police forces are often present to exert pressure on the protesters.

This video posted to David’s Instagram account on August 30 shows a scene at one of his “Lunch With You” actions. Accompanied by a few masked protesters, David and his partners hold up blank sheets of paper, a message of protest of the censorship made official in the National Security Law. David is singing the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong”, but changing the lyrics to the numbers 5201314 – pronounced in Cantonese, the letters sound like the phrase “I’ll love you forever and always”.

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An August 30 Instagram Live video showing a scene at one of David's “Lunch With You” protests.
 
David also writes and delivers petitions to top government authorities, as we can see in this Facebook Live video of him at the Hong Kong Police Headquarters on October 7.

David explains that his letter lays out the conflicts between police and Hong Kong citizens over the past year, particularly the police’s violence and wrongful methods of law enforcement. The letter also mentions the recent degradation of press liberties in Hong Kong and calls for reporting freedoms to be restored to the people.

A October 7 Facebook Live video showing David being interviewed at the Hong Kong Police Headquarters while he delivers a petition to the Commissioner.

“Read Apple Daily With You”

As David’s protests attract considerable attention from passersby and local media, police officers often end up breaking them up, and on occasion, arresting David.

On October 4, David engaged in one of his regular “Read Apple Daily With You” protests with a twist, as this image taken by a bystander shows. In a Facebook post, David wrote: “I noticed that citizens holding Ta Kung Pao [Editor’s note: a popular pro-Beijing newspaper] will not be surrounded by police, so today my friend and I held Apple Daily and Ta Kung Pao to test the police response.”

Posted on David's "Lunch Brother" Facebook page on October 4, this photo shows David and a friend holding copies of Apple Daily and Ta Kung Pao newspapers while surrounded by police.
 
Later that day, Stand News, a pro-democracy news site, reported that 10 police officers arrived at the atrium of the Maritime Square shopping mall, accused David and his friend of agitating crowds and disturbing the peace, and arrested David. In a October 7 Facebook Live video to his followers, David shared that he is currently undergoing pre-trial hearings for public misconduct. He added that he is being suspended from school for the incident, and is not sure when he will be able to return.
 
Hong Kong Protesters Criticise David's Actions

As David’s activism becomes increasingly mediatized, protesters in Hong Kong remain divided about his methods, and some of his social media posts have stirred anger. In a Telegram channel entitled “Hong Kong Military” with many frontliners (protesters who scorn peaceful methods), a post on October 5 criticises David for accusing people who don’t agree with him of being police imposters on Instagram.

Another post on a Telegram channel dedicated to supporting student protesters criticises David’s “disrespect for the deceased”, particularly the altars erected to Hong Kongers killed during the recent pro-democracy protests. A live video posted to David’s “Lunch Brother” Instagram account on August 8 shows him taunting police officers in front of an altar dedicated to Alex Chow, a young Hong Konger whose death was linked to the 2019 protests.
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An August 8 Instagram Live video showing David taunting police officers in front of an altar dedicated to Alex Chow, a young Hong Konger whose death was linked to the 2019 protests.
 
This Telegram post also calls into question David’s “attention-seeking behavior”. The poster wonders if David’s solo “Lunch With You” protests have abdicated the purpose of the original 2019 movement – meant to paralyse shopping malls and streets – and now merely serve to increase his personal exposure.

“David's actions are simply lingering on the last legs of the protests”

“Sam”, a Twitter user who posts regularly about protests in Hong Kong and requests anonymity, said that he felt David’s activism was “a staging of play that eventually becomes part of daily life for certain people, exerting no pressure on the government”.
 
"Those keen on protest on the streets feel that it’s over at this stage, and that David's actions are simply lingering on the last legs of the protests. To me, David should face the criticism and rethink himself – like Joshua Wong [Editor’s note: one of Hong Kong’s most prominent young activists] did over the years. He’s repeating his methods and getting diminishing returns. It’s truly the time to think beyond past [protest] methods.”


Article by Diana Liu