How four deaths turned Hong Kong's protest movement dark

How four deaths turned Hong Kongs protest movement dark

How four deaths turned Hong Kong’s protest movement dark

“We will accomplish what is left to be done,” wrote one.

The death of the woman — known to most of the world by her last name, Mak — was the fourth suspected suicide to be connected by local media to ongoing demonstrations, sparked initially by a controversial extradition bill that many feared could further limit freedoms in the semi-autonomous city.

Protesters have talked of sacrifice, hopelessness, and a loss of trust in their leaders. The four who died have become fixtures in protest art and been treated by some demonstrators as heroes of the cause.

But experts warn that this kind of rhetoric is risky. With many protesters in their teens and early 20s in a city where mental health support is lacking, they warn that treating protesters as heroes could be putting others in danger.

The fight for Hong Kong

The movement to block the extradition bill has been cast as a binary life or death struggle from the outset.

When at least hundreds of thousands — up to a million by some measures — marched at the start of June, it was described by activists as the “last chance to fight for Hong Kong.”

The deaths of the protesters only added to that intensity.

Mourners in Hong Kong place flowers and offer prayers on June 16, 2019, at the site where a protester died.

At demonstrations, protesters created banners from yellow raincoats, giving the illusion that the first death by suicide, a 35-year-old man who died wearing a distinctive yellow raincoat, was floating above them. Protesters wore black and waved black flags to honor the dead. In the mass outpouring of grief, some protesters pointed the finger at the government. For a time, a blood-red placard became ubiquitous. It read: “Stop killing us.”

“He sacrificed a lot for us,” a 16-year-old schoolgirl, who only gave her name as Athena, said of the man at one of the marches. “This is related to the political system of Hong Kong — it’s life-threatening and it’s fateful.”

In places around the city, demonstrators held memorials for the dead. They piled flowers on footpaths that formed little mountains of white and plastic, and left notes to the dead that they would never read.

“Dear Hero, we will fight for you,” read one on a piece of white paper decorated with a heart. “He was dragged down by the regime,” read another.

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the now-suspended extradition bill on June 16, 2019 in Hong Kong.

Those lost to suicide became fixtures in protest art, too. One showed the 35-year-old man and another victim holding hands as they walked toward the light with the words: “Friend, don’t leave. Hong Kong people, don’t give up.” Even messages that didn’t depict the protesters took on a darker tone. “If we burn, you burn with us,” read a huge, deep-red banner.

Among some protesters, death was a point of discussion. “Die for Hong Kong,” some protesters could be heard chanting. A manifesto shared on Telegram — an encrypted app used widely during the protests — thanked “heroes who pay their blood and their lives.”
Protest posters depict a 35-year-old suicide victim in Admiralty, Hong Kong, on July 1, 2019. The one on the left reads: "Friend, don't leave, Hong Kong people, don't give up." On the right: "No one can be lacking, we need to work hard together."
At a press conference, pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo called on protesters to “drop the martyr mentality.”

“We need to remind them that it is not worth it. Time is always on the side of the young,” she said.

The problem is, the young don’t necessarily feel like that.

Why things turned dark

Hong Kong is a city familiar with protests. But the protests haven’t always been like this movement.

In 2014, pro-democracy protesters occupied Hong Kong’s inner city streets for 79 days. Although there were scuffles, it was largely peaceful and optimistic. The protesters — among them, many high-school students — sang songs, set up supply tents and even created areas to do their homework.

Hope was in the air.

There was a sense that democracy might finally be possible.

Hong Kong has never had complete democracy. When the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997, Beijing promised to maintain Hong Kong’s freedoms for the next 50 years. Many see Hong Kong as having less than 30 years left until it becomes another mainland Chinese city, without the right to things like freedom of assembly and free speech that they’ve enjoyed in the past.
Students do their homework at a study area occupied as part of the Umbrella Movement on October 10, 2014, in Hong Kong.
Despite the optimism of the 2014 movement, when it ended, none of its aims had been achieved. Key protest leaders were imprisoned and, in the following years, enthusiasm for protests waned.

So when protesters took to the streets earlier this year, they released years of suppressed anger and distrust of the government, according to Samson Yuen, a political scientist at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University.

That anger was soon exacerbated. Police have fired pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets, actions which have been seen by protesters as heavy-handed. Although Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam suspended the bill, she has repeatedly refused to withdraw it or respond to other demands, such as an independent inquiry into police actions.

The four suspected suicides added another emotional element — especially because many saw the deaths as the fault of the government, said Yuen.

“The protest is about the life and death of Hong Kong,” he said. “The protests are about continuing the wishes of those who ‘gave their lives.’

“It’s about how people trust the system, how people can still have confidence about the future of Hong Kong.”

At a press conference earlier this month, Hong Kong’s leader Lam said she was saddened by the protesters who had hurt themselves as a result of the bill. She added that the government had asked many non-governmental organizations to offer emotional consultation services, “hoping to ease the negative emotions that plague the Hong Kong society.”

Police fire tear gas at protesters outside the Legislative Council Complex in the early hours of July 2, 2019 in Hong Kong.

A 34-year-old protester, who asked not to be named, said he joined the protests after seeing the “brutal” police actions on June 12 — and was given “faith and courage” by the death of the first protester on June 15.

“The death of (the protester) forced people to acknowledge our city’s government has changed,” he said. “Our impression of a government that cares for the people is shattered.”

“We chose to ignore it for years that our city is slowly changing. But this time, we can’t.”

A hopeless future?

The bleak language — and spate of deaths — has lawmakers and mental health experts worried.

Paul Yip, the director for the Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention (CSRP), was concerned about the risk of copycat suicides, and the effect the negative atmosphere could have on youth who are suffering from preexisting mental health issues.

Yip cautioned that turning people who may have had mental health issues already into martyrs risked glamorizing suicide, which could create a contagion effect.

“These people … are the victims of a mentally stressed environment,” he said.

People hold flowers in the rain ahead of a memorial service on July 11, 2019, in Hong Kong, for a protester who died.
He was also concerned about the way media outlets have reported on the deaths, which he believed could encourage others to take their lives. Some local outlets have simplified the reasons behind suicide and referenced suicide methods — both things that are discouraged by the World Health Organization’s suicide reporting guidelines, as they could trigger suicidal ideation in vulnerable readers.
In 2017 — the latest year for which there is data — Hong Kong’s estimated age-standardized suicide rate was 9.5 out of every 100,000, compared with 10.5 globally. Between 2015 and 2017, Hong Kong’s overall suicide rate trended downward, while the the suicide rate for those aged 15 to 24 has gone up, according to data from CSRP.

And there’s evidence that mental health in the city has been negatively impacted by the protests. Clarence Tsang, executive director of Samaritans Befrienders Hong Kong, said his organization had seen 73 calls in June by people distressed about the social movement, compared to only a handful on this topic in the previous months.

“Most of them are feeling hopeless, said that there is no way out, they didn’t see a future,” he said, adding that some were sad about the deaths, while others were upset by family tensions over the movements.
People offer prayers during a vigil in Hong Kong on July 6, 2019, in memory of the four protesters who died.
Recent Hong Kong University Faculty of Medicine research found there was a 9.1% increase in the prevalence of probable depression among participants surveyed between June 22 and July 7 compared with the baseline in 2011 to 2014. The study showed probable depression had been increasing in the city over the past few years, from 5.3% during 2014’s Occupy Central movement to 6.1% in September 2017, three years after the failed movement ended.

In the face of all the negativity, some people in Hong Kong have rallied around each other. Candice Powell, a clinical psychologist, has set up a hotline for journalists who have been traumatized by the violence they have seen. Lawmaker Roy Kwong — a former social worker — has emerged as a volunteer, on-call support person to protesters.

In so-called Lennon Walls around the city, protesters have written notes on Post-its, spurring each other on. “Dear Hong Kong, everything will be alright,” read one.

People walk in front of a so-called "Lennon Wall" where messages of support have been left for anti-extradition bill protesters on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong.

Yong Pui-tung, the 28-year-old best friend of Mak, said others should talk more and not to feel alone.

“I’m really afraid there will be more and more, and I don’t want to see that kind of thing happen again,” she said. “We should all talk more to our friends — you shouldn’t feel alone because everyone is with us.

“Hong Kong people, we stand as one and we should stay strong.”

Kwong, meanwhile, urged protesters to think of the future, which he didn’t believe was as negative as many expected.

“I think people need to keep a normal, calm attitude,” he said. “They need to know this is a continuous fight.”

How to get help: In Hong Kong, call +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

Contributions: CNN’s Stephy Chung, Maisy Mok, Jessie Yeung, Jadyn Sham and Charmaine Lee contributed to this report from Hong Kong.

How four deaths turned Hong Kong’s protest movement dark

“We’ll accomplish what’s left to be carried out,” wrote one.

The loss of life of the girl — identified to a lot of the world by her final title, Mak — was the fourth suspected suicide to be linked by native media to ongoing demonstrations, sparked initially by a controversial extradition invoice that many feared might additional restrict freedoms within the semi-autonomous metropolis.

Protesters have talked of sacrifice, hopelessness, and a lack of belief of their leaders. The four who died have grow to be fixtures in protest artwork and been handled by some demonstrators as heroes of the trigger.

However specialists warn that this sort of rhetoric is dangerous. With many protesters of their teenagers and early 20s in a metropolis the place psychological well being help is missing, they warn that treating protesters as heroes could possibly be placing others at risk.

The struggle for Hong Kong

The movement to dam the extradition invoice has been forged as a binary life or loss of life battle from the outset.

When a minimum of a whole bunch of hundreds — as much as one million by some measures — marched initially of June, it was described by activists because the “final probability to struggle for Hong Kong.”

The deaths of the protesters solely added to that depth.

Mourners in Hong Kong place flowers and offer prayers on June 16, 2019, at the site where a protester died.

At demonstrations, protesters created banners from yellow raincoats, giving the phantasm that the primary loss of life by suicide, a 35-year-old man who died carrying a particular yellow raincoat, was floating above them. Protesters wore black and waved black flags to honor the lifeless. Within the mass outpouring of grief, some protesters pointed the finger on the authorities. For a time, a blood-red placard turned ubiquitous. It learn: “Cease killing us.”

“He sacrificed lots for us,” a 16-year-old schoolgirl, who solely gave her title as Athena, stated of the person at one of many marches. “That is associated to the political system of Hong Kong — it is life-threatening and it is fateful.”

In locations across the metropolis, demonstrators held memorials for the lifeless. They piled flowers on footpaths that shaped little mountains of white and plastic, and left notes to the lifeless that they’d by no means learn.

“Expensive Hero, we are going to struggle for you,” learn one on a bit of white paper adorned with a coronary heart. “He was dragged down by the regime,” learn one other.

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the now-suspended extradition bill on June 16, 2019 in Hong Kong.

These misplaced to suicide turned fixtures in protest artwork, too. One confirmed the 35-year-old man and one other sufferer holding fingers as they walked towards the sunshine with the phrases: “Pal, do not go away. Hong Kong folks, do not quit.” Even messages that did not depict the protesters took on a darker tone. “If we burn, you burn with us,” learn an enormous, deep-red banner.

Amongst some protesters, loss of life was some extent of dialogue. “Die for Hong Kong,” some protesters could possibly be heard chanting. A manifesto shared on Telegram — an encrypted app used broadly throughout the protests — thanked “heroes who pay their blood and their lives.”
Protest posters depict a 35-year-old suicide victim in Admiralty, Hong Kong, on July 1, 2019. The one on the left reads: "Friend, don't leave, Hong Kong people, don't give up." On the right: "No one can be lacking, we need to work hard together."
At a press convention, pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo known as on protesters to “drop the martyr mentality.”

“We have to remind them that it’s not price it. Time is all the time on the aspect of the younger,” she stated.

The issue is, the younger do not essentially really feel like that.

Why issues turned dark

Hong Kong is a metropolis acquainted with protests. However the protests have not all the time been like this movement.

In 2014, pro-democracy protesters occupied Hong Kong’s interior metropolis streets for 79 days. Though there have been scuffles, it was largely peaceable and optimistic. The protesters — amongst them, many high-school college students — sang songs, arrange provide tents and even created areas to do their homework.

Hope was within the air.

There was a way that democracy would possibly lastly be potential.

Hong Kong has by no means had full democracy. When the previous British colony was handed over to China in 1997, Beijing promised to keep up Hong Kong’s freedoms for the subsequent 50 years. Many see Hong Kong as having lower than 30 years left till it turns into one other mainland Chinese language metropolis, with out the precise to issues like freedom of meeting and free speech that they’ve loved up to now.
Students do their homework at a study area occupied as part of the Umbrella Movement on October 10, 2014, in Hong Kong.
Regardless of the optimism of the 2014 movement, when it ended, none of its goals had been achieved. Key protest leaders had been imprisoned and, within the following years, enthusiasm for protests waned.

So when protesters took to the streets earlier this 12 months, they launched years of suppressed anger and mistrust of the federal government, in line with Samson Yuen, a political scientist at Hong Kong’s Lingnan College.

That anger was quickly exacerbated. Police have fired pepper spray, tear gasoline and rubber bullets, actions which have been seen by protesters as heavy-handed. Though Hong Kong’s chief Carrie Lam suspended the invoice, she has repeatedly refused to withdraw it or reply to different calls for, comparable to an unbiased inquiry into police actions.

The four suspected suicides added one other emotional aspect — particularly as a result of many noticed the deaths because the fault of the federal government, stated Yuen.

“The protest is concerning the life and loss of life of Hong Kong,” he stated. “The protests are about persevering with the needs of those that ‘gave their lives.’

“It is about how folks belief the system, how folks can nonetheless trust about the way forward for Hong Kong.”

At a press convention earlier this month, Hong Kong’s chief Lam stated she was saddened by the protesters who had damage themselves because of the invoice. She added that the federal government had requested many non-governmental organizations to supply emotional session companies, “hoping to ease the detrimental feelings that plague the Hong Kong society.”

Police fire tear gas at protesters outside the Legislative Council Complex in the early hours of July 2, 2019 in Hong Kong.

A 34-year-old protester, who requested to not be named, stated he joined the protests after seeing the “brutal” police actions on June 12 — and was given “religion and braveness” by the loss of life of the primary protester on June 15.

“The loss of life of (the protester) pressured folks to acknowledge our metropolis’s authorities has modified,” he stated. “Our impression of a authorities that cares for the folks is shattered.”

“We selected to disregard it for years that our metropolis is slowly altering. However this time, we will not.”

A hopeless future?

The awful language — and spate of deaths — has lawmakers and psychological well being specialists fearful.

Paul Yip, the director for the Hong Kong Jockey Membership Centre for Suicide Analysis and Prevention (CSRP), was involved concerning the danger of copycat suicides, and the impact the detrimental environment might have on youth who’re affected by preexisting psychological well being points.

Yip cautioned that turning individuals who might have had psychological well being points already into martyrs risked glamorizing suicide, which might create a contagion impact.

“These folks … are the victims of a mentally burdened atmosphere,” he stated.

People hold flowers in the rain ahead of a memorial service on July 11, 2019, in Hong Kong, for a protester who died.
He was additionally involved about the way in which media shops have reported on the deaths, which he believed might encourage others to take their lives. Some native shops have simplified the explanations behind suicide and referenced suicide strategies — each issues which can be discouraged by the World Well being Group’s suicide reporting pointers, as they might set off suicidal ideation in weak readers.
In 2017 — the most recent 12 months for which there’s information — Hong Kong’s estimated age-standardized suicide price was 9.5 out of each 100,000, in contrast with 10.5 globally. Between 2015 and 2017, Hong Kong’s total suicide price trended downward, whereas the the suicide price for these aged 15 to 24 has gone up, in line with information from CSRP.

And there is proof that psychological well being within the metropolis has been negatively impacted by the protests. Clarence Tsang, government director of Samaritans Befrienders Hong Kong, stated his group had seen 73 calls in June by folks distressed concerning the social movement, in comparison with solely a handful on this matter within the earlier months.

“Most of them are feeling hopeless, stated that there is no such thing as a method out, they did not see a future,” he stated, including that some had been unhappy concerning the deaths, whereas others had been upset by household tensions over the actions.
People offer prayers during a vigil in Hong Kong on July 6, 2019, in memory of the four protesters who died.
Current Hong Kong College School of Drugs analysis discovered there was a 9.1% improve within the prevalence of possible melancholy amongst individuals surveyed between June 22 and July 7 in contrast with the baseline in 2011 to 2014. The examine confirmed possible melancholy had been rising within the metropolis over the previous few years, from 5.3% throughout 2014’s Occupy Central movement to six.1% in September 2017, three years after the failed movement ended.

Within the face of all of the negativity, some folks in Hong Kong have rallied round one another. Candice Powell, a scientific psychologist, has arrange a hotline for journalists who’ve been traumatized by the violence they’ve seen. Lawmaker Roy Kwong — a former social employee — has emerged as a volunteer, on-call help particular person to protesters.

In so-called Lennon Partitions across the metropolis, protesters have written notes on Submit-its, spurring one another on. “Expensive Hong Kong, all the things can be alright,” learn one.

People walk in front of a so-called "Lennon Wall" where messages of support have been left for anti-extradition bill protesters on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong.

Yong Pui-tung, the 28-year-old finest good friend of Mak, stated others ought to speak extra and to not really feel alone.

“I am actually afraid there can be an increasing number of, and I do not wish to see that sort of factor occur once more,” she stated. “We should always all speak extra to our mates — you should not really feel alone as a result of everyone seems to be with us.

“Hong Kong folks, we stand as one and we must always keep robust.”

Kwong, in the meantime, urged protesters to think about the longer term, which he did not consider was as detrimental as many anticipated.

“I feel folks must hold a traditional, calm perspective,” he stated. “They should know it is a steady struggle.”

How to get assist: In Hong Kong, name +852 2896 000zero for The Samaritans or +852 2382 000zero for Suicide Prevention Companies. Within the US, name the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Worldwide Affiliation for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide additionally present contact info for disaster facilities all over the world.

Contributions: CNN’s Stephy Chung, Maisy Mok, Jessie Yeung, Jadyn Sham and Charmaine Lee contributed to this report from Hong Kong.

Facts Source: https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/21/asia/hong-kong-deaths-suicide-dark-intl-hnk/index.html

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