Duty-bound

We are in riot gear and armed with full-body clear shields, facing thousands of young protestors. These kids—clad in black, carrying umbrellas, and covered in face masks—should be at school or at work. Instead, they are using their sweaty bodies to block a major road in downtown Hong Kong, preventing lawmakers to enter the Legislative Council building to read the controversial extradition bill.

As a law-abiding person, this bill has no effect on me. But my wife says that if the bill passed, activists, journalists, and even business executives—anyone Beijing deems unsavory—could be extradited to mainland China, in a justice system known for its lack of human rights and a 99.9% conviction rate. Last Sunday, my wife joined the one-million strong march where people were chanting about this “evil law” that will erode Hong Kong’s freedom of speech. I did not participate—My duty is to protect and serve while maintaining order.

As I stand in the middle of the wide boulevard in my soaked-through uniform, I see a woman approaching, eventually standing between the protesters and us. She is bespectacled, middle-aged and wearing a t-shirt with a towel draped around her neck. “I am a mother, and I am sure some of you have kids,” She wails. “Why did you attack our kids like this?”

She, like many mothers on the streets today, are protesting on behalf of their children who have been shot at with rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, and tear gas when the Commissioner gave us the directives to disperse the crowd. Our duty is to protect and serve while maintaining order.

 “I am not here to attack you. I have no weapon.” She unloads her small backpack and stretches out her thin arms. “I have been smoke-bombed by your tear gas so many times. Can you please stop?” She pleads.

As she steps nearer, I feel tears trickling down under the clear visor over my face— this woman could have been my mother, who also drapes her towel the same way when she practices Tai Chi in the park. I cry for my divided city. While my colleagues on the force want nothing more than the protesters to go away, the pro-democratic students behind the woman, like my wife, are resisting the tear gas with open umbrellas and face masks, demanding the scrapping of the extradition bill.

Then, out of nowhere, a colleague comes dashing behind me. With a beanbag round, he shoots at the woman who is only inches away from my shield. My ears ring as I watch her topple backward. Luckily, a bystander catches her fall and leads her away. Instantly, my eyes start to burn—the same colleague has also fired tear gas into the crowd.

The crowd scatters within seconds. I dab away my tears with my handkerchief. Then I return standing in line with my shield up. My duty is to protect and serve while maintaining order.

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