The Umbrella Movement that erupted in September 2014 undoubtedly marked a new political age of the post-colonial Hong Kong. The pro-democratic movement lasted for 79 days during which time tens of thousands of protestors occupied several important commercial districts in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, and Mong Kok. Because of the 10/3 mob attacks to the Mong Kok and Causeway Bay first aid stations, the official (OCLP) Medical Team were ordered to leave the sites, to protect their own personal safety. Under such chaotic conditions, some first aid workers decided that the protesters in Mong Kok required far more medical support than elsewhere, so the volunteers – including but not limited to registered nurses, nursing students, and/or people with first aid certificates – took over the first aid stations and offered medical support to the protesters.
My younger sister, who was a third-year nursing student at that time, served at different Umbrella occupation sites as a first aid worker, ending up at one of the Mong Kok first aid stations, where she witnessed the unforgettable bloody and insane violent acts of the police force. She told me that the voluntary first aid workers held very different positions within the political spectrum of Hong Kong, they are not all for the “yellow side” of the movement; however, the team all joined hands to provide essential medical services purely because their belief (and mission) was to protect the safety of Hong Kong citizens during the occupation, especially without judging any citizens’ political stance.
During the 79 days of the occupation, first aid workers’ voices were not only silenced by the government, but also self-censored. But their voices and stories are important to hear today. Since they had to maintain positive relations with the police sharing the working space of the streets, they had to perform as if politically neutral and could not let others know their personal opinions or stance; they were not allowed to wear any of the symbolic colored ribbons, like other participants, after they took up the role of first aid workers. The Umbrella Movement expressed Hong Kong citizens’ rights to protests which had been excessively denied when the governments of Hong Kong and Beijing denounced the occupation as “illegal.” Further, in light of the violence used by the police force, these first aid workers’ physical and mental injuries suffered on the front line can powerfully reveal how human rights were devastated by a state apparatus that expelled protesters and even first aid workers from the occupied sites, under claims of law.
I myself have deep ties to the Umbrella Movement: as a participant on the front lines, and as a logistical supporter organizing donated materials from the public. I cannot help but reflect: if these first aid workers were willing to help protect so many young Hong Kong protesters from getting injured, they surely deserve the proper attention to and assistance in handling their own unheard (until now) traumatic experiences. I am not a believer that time heals every wound; rather, I think talking can effect a cure.
There is a saying among Hong Kong’s young people: “Being born in uncertain times carries certain responsibilities.” I consider the creation of this project as one of my responsibilities, my way to respond to the call to fight for our rights from the society to which I belong. By the time the film is completed in 2019, it coincides with the 5th Anniversary of the movement. I intend to keep the promise of the movement alive and honor its final slogan: “毋忘初衷 don’t forget our original intention; we will be back!” I see a pressing need to create this essay film to recall and revive the keen commitment of Hong Kong citizens fighting for democracy and their own human rights, the principles that once were upheld so highly in the movement.
As the current political atmosphere is hostile to the pro-democratic movement and its participants, it is critical for the film to avoid inflaming a divided Hong Kong. Instead, I want to highlight even with different political stances; people could still perform and carry the desire duties if they have the common goal; as demonstrated by my subjects, their common goal was to ensure the safety of the citizens during the movement.
Indeed, the most important thing about a film is its inherent thoughts; wallowing in emotions, like anger and/or disappointment, without careful thoughts on what could be done towards the democratic development in Hong Kong is like diving into a bottomless well; this kind of work could not reflect and/or generate thoughts and ideas. As a medium of communication, films should be able to take both the director and audience to an ocean for thinking and contemplation. With the understanding that documentary film can advance change through influencing perceptions, that is exactly where my documentary starts.