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Hong Kong in the #MeToo era

Speaking to female protesters about their fears, what sexual assault allegations mean for them and the protesters’ movement.

By Nathan Wilson.

This article contains mention of rape and sexual assault.

Since the start of the Hong Kong protests to the present the region has seen a massive increase in violence from both the police and the protesters.

It can be argued that one issue, which has gone under the radar, has sadly been an increase in widespread allegations of police misconduct in the form of sexual abuse.

Such a topic has been treated as taboo within the political climate of Hong Kong with the effects having widespread implications for the region.

These allegations have mostly come from female protesters during said protests, of which many have circulated from the outset of this years protesting while a few have come from male protesters.

The allegations come against the Hong Kong police (HKP). These have included female protesters being publicly exposed by police officers, police officers conducting gloveless strip searches of arrested female protesters, using pens to spread female protesters legs open, rape/ gang rape committed by officers and further sexual assault allegedly by HKP.

In addition to this, protesters have reported being denied getting access to lawyers. This is something in which lawyers have reported to local media outlets to corroborate such claims.

Due to this, Hong Kong saw its own ‘MeToo’ style in order to protest such alleged actions by the police force.

The event in question was organised by the Women’s Coalition on Equal Opportunities.

A key spokeswoman for the organisation, Linda Wong, stated to the local media during the protesting that,

“In the name of law enforcement, police are using sexual violence as an instrument of intimidation,”.

Alongside this she also stated that, “the coalition resolutely demands the police force seriously investigate and make accountable acts of sexual violence committed by officers during the anti-extradition bill protests”.

Credit: Reuters

In writing, I decided to interview a female protester within the movement about these issues facing women within Hong Kong.

This was done to highlight the many different concerns being raised by these allegations and to hear precisely what is being said and why.

In the purposes of security and privacy, the identity of the individual will remain anonymous.

When the allegations first come to light what were you first thoughts?

“Actually my feeling is kind of strange, I don’t know why I feel a bit relieved when I got pushed on the ground by the police, maybe the past few months have been too stressful, I feel guilty and sad for my buddy that got caught by police, in that moment those feelings are relief for myself. But after you’re sent to the police station, the long waiting makes you think about a lot of things, at that time I became a bit panicked and anxious, afraid that I did not get bail out and need to go to jail.”

Do you personally fear being sexually assaulted by the police/ do you know of anyone who has been?

“I personality did not have that experience, or I don’t think I did. When I got arrested and walked to the police car, some police were sat near the car, probably resting, some were looking at us (people who got caught) strangely, one seemed to look at me and say to his colleague ‘this one is nice.”. But after that, I did not have any other experience, and people that are close to me didn’t have that experience too.”

How have these allegations changed your behaviour, if any since the start of the protesting this year?

“After I was bailed out, I can’t participate in any social movement anymore, even peaceful rallies because of the threat of police arrest, and using violence that always turned a peaceful rally into violence confrontation. If I got caught again I will be charged and directly sent to detention until end of the case, I can’t bear that risk. It is strange for me because I used to be quite active in the social movements, now I kind got forced to live a ‘normal life’.”

Do you have any trust in the current Hong Kong Police in dealing with said allegations?

“No trust at all, they arrest us, using unnecessary violence, make up evidence etc. they even have the Hong Kong government and China’s government at their back to let them do whatever they want, how can I trust people that treat us like this.”

Why do you personally think that this is happening?

“I think its several reasons, first is police hate of protesters, they will do anything to insult and hurt us. For boy it may be physical abuse, for girl sexual assault. Second, the whole police force is a very strong masculine environment and dominated by men, even a female police, having her photo taken and posted to the internet for discussion, received a lot of verbal sexual and disrespectful action from her colleagues. The worst is these police are protected by the authorities, victims also bear a huge amount of pressure, threat and blame by police or pro-police people if they reveal these things. Lack of punishment and consequence may encourage police to continue this behaviour.”

With tensions still high and allegations rampant within the region it begins to ask how can trust exist with police and the protesters.

In addition to this it shows commitment and resolve on the part of the protesters (especially female protesters) in the face of such allegations.

Due to this many have argued that these #METOO protests have brought many darkened issues into the light within the region.

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