Katherine Cheng

Hong Kong Protests: Behind the Headlines
Location: Hong Kong
Nationality: Canadian
Biography: A graduate of Development Studies and photographer, Katherine is passionate about protecting our planet and the people living on it. Having travelled across Canada by train, lived in rural Kenya, and studied foreign policy in Asia, she is always... read on
Public Story
Hong Kong Protests: Behind the Headlines
Credits: katherine cheng
Date of Work: 10/01/19 - Ongoing
Updated: 12/02/19
Location: Kowloon, Hong Kong
Five years after the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, protests have once again gripped the city of Hong Kong in the semi-autonomous region’s largest and longest ongoing movement. Initially sparked by an extradition bill that would have permitted the extradition of criminals in Hong Kong for trial in mainland China, the bill has since been withdrawn. However, the deeper roots of the movement can also be traced back to fears of disappearing human rights and democratic freedoms, a historical sense of cultural separation from mainland China, and uncertainty for what will happen in 2047 (the official expiration date of One Country, Two Systems).

With my family roots being originally from Hong Kong, I arrived in September to witness the movement for myself, uncertain of what to expect. Were the headlines of violence and destruction an accurate depiction of the movement, or was it a journalistic tendency to focus on the most dramatic and cinematic moments? Were the claims of normality an attempt to reassure foreign investors and potential tourists? Perhaps something in between?
Since the start of the protests on June 9th, the movement has drastically evolved on a week-to-week basis. With what began originally as a peaceful movement, an increasing number of violent clashes between the protestors and armed forces has since led to more than 2,000 arrests, the entire shutdown of the local MTR transportation system, 12,000 rounds of tear gas, and over 150 petrol bombs thrown. Now six months into the movement, it seems that an end is still yet to be seen despite recent district elections that saw a rare period of calm following dramatic confrontations between police and protestors across the university campuses of the city.

This has been an incredibly well-documented movement of resistance in journalism, with a high degree of accessibility to language, interviewees, internet, and more. However, what are the lesser-known stories that are oftentimes not shown on the headlines? What are these rallies like just before or after the peak of dramatic confrontations? How have the protests become integrated into the daily lives of protestors, police, and citizens of Hong Kong, transforming into a rather normalized affair six months into the protests? This series attempts to show some of these moments in between headlines, inviting the viewer into what it's like to live in Hong Kong during these tumultuous times.