Pixels, Police, and Batons: Hong Kong Cinema, Digital Media, the 2019 Protests, and Beyond

Cameron L. White

From Film Quarterly, Spring 2021, Volume 74, Number 3

The 2019 Hong Kong protests witnessed not only sustained physical demonstrations by locals, but also a swell of online digital media that recorded and remixed conflicts between protestors and police. By documenting key moving images that circulated throughout social media and the film festival circuit, White’s essay reorients Hong Kong film studies’ relationship with the digital. Although cinema played a secondary role in the 2019 protests compared to digital media, numerous intertextual linkages demonstrate the productive potential of considering the two together. Special attention is given to the cops-and-robbers genre, a linchpin in local film history and a frequent form of choice for Hong Kong-mainland China coproductions. While the troubled representation of police in 2019 and beyond suggests that the future of the genre is unstable, the ingenuity of recent digital media demonstrates Hong Kong’s enduring potential for moving image innovation.

Images from Now TV’s livestream of the protests around Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 18, 2019.

On the afternoon of June 13, 2019, Shu Kei was in a bind. The prominent Hong Kong filmmaker, critic, and democracy proponent was due to host a postscreening discussion for a documentary he had executive-produced. The problem: he didn’t know what to say to the audience, or even whether the screening should proceed. The night before, a tense standoff between Hong Kong protesters and police in front of the city’s Legislative Council Complex had ended in tear gas and rubber bullets. This confrontation came on the heels of a million-strong march just days before, when Hongkongers first awakened the world to their vehement dissatisfaction with a proposed bill that would legalize extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China.

To Shu, diverting even a moment’s attention away from this growing movement seemed counterproductive—and the documentary he executive-produced, Umbrella Diaries: The First Umbrella (傘上 : 遍地開花, James Leong, 2018), highlighted not the current situation but a political flash point of 2014 instead. Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, a seventy-nine-day street occupation aimed at securing Hongkongers a greater say in electing their city’s leader, had ended without any major concessions and was retroactively deemed a failure. How would a film about that movement play before this audience?

Shu went ahead with the screening, but it wasn’t until he took his seat and the film began that he realized what to say: it all came down to the difference between 2014 and 2019. The Umbrella Movement had been spearheaded by a number of theoretically minded professors and boisterous student groups. Shu came to believe that, before long, more-opportunistic factions had piled in—latecomers who turned what he’d initially seen as a pure movement motivated by ideals into a struggle for power and control. 1 These 2019 protests were different. Activists and politicians had been instrumental in raising the alarm over the proposed extradition bill, but the movement had spontaneously taken on a life of its own on June 12, driven by young people—especially teenagers—interacting through online forums and encrypted messaging apps. Even more important was the relative difference in bargaining positions: in 2014, Hongkongers had begged for a right they felt was enshrined within the city’s quasi constitution, while Hongkongers in 2019 were simply saying no. No to extraditions. No to China. No to changing what they had. A political science degree wasn’t needed to get behind that. 2

Hong Kong holds a unique position in relation to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Its retrocession, or “return,” from the United Kingdom to China in 1997 was a defining moment for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). President Jiang Zemin (1993–2003) cited “the century-old humiliation caused by [Hong Kong’s] occupation,” referring to China’s ceding Hong Kong to the British after the First Opium War. 3 Hong Kong’s years under British rule left it with markedly different political and social norms from the mainland, enshrined in the “One Country, Two Systems” framework established by President Deng Xiaoping (1978–89) as a way for the former colony to maintain its capitalist system, civil liberties, and nascent democracy even while being part of a socialist country under one-party rule. Nearly every recent political conflict in the city has revolved around the workability of that proposal, with many Hongkongers worried that their freedoms are eroding prematurely before the system’s prescribed fifty-year expiration in 2047.

Film has been particularly impacted by these struggles. After 1997, the cinematic center of gravity steadily shifted away from the former British colony, with talent and capital moving across the border. With that shift has come a stark choice: to make films for the mainland market and toe Beijing’s political line (particularly on Hong Kong), focus on smaller or foreign projects, or find another line of work. Some local entertainers have become zealous PRC patriots. Martial-arts superstar Jackie Chan is now a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and has stridently argued for stricter limitations on Hongkongers’ rights to assemble. 4 On the other end of the spectrum is Anthony Wong, winner of multiple Best Actor prizes at the Hong Kong Film Awards, who saw mainland job offers dry up after he publicly supported the Umbrella Movement of 2014. 5

The 2019 protests provided China with a purity test for Hong Kong filmmakers. Social media accounts of actors, directors, and producers became peppered with images of the Chinese flag and calls to support the Hong Kong police. A much smaller crop of celebrities, including Anthony Wong and Shu Kei, sided with the protestors. It’s tempting to identify the political division among filmmakers as a local version of the gap between commercial and independent cinema, yet such a model has problems. For one thing, it oversimplifies the personal beliefs of celebrities, who can be easily pressured by their managers into nationalistic Weibo posts. For another, such a dichotomy misrepresents Hong Kong’s moving-image culture: traditional cinema—commercial, independent, or otherwise—played a minor role in the 2019 protests. Digital media was far more instrumental in connecting and mobilizing younger generations, while also offering a vibrant playground for Hongkongers disenchanted with longer-standing modes of image production. Digital media has already reshaped cinema.

Web-native content offers an opportunity to peek into the city’s chaotic mood as well as to redefine critical approaches to Hong Kong’s moving-image culture, particularly by applying Andrew Darley’s intertextual mode of digital media analysis to 2020. 6 Fascinatingly, narrative fiction film mingles with television, documentary, and even the festival circuit through the representation of the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) and its place in the city’s filmic legacy. Once a muse for local directors and the symbolic core of the homegrown genre of cops-and-robbers films (警匪片, gingfeipin), the HKPF’s conduct during the 2019 protests precipitated its worst PR crisis in fifty years. 7 By examining the real-life conduct of law enforcement and its digital representations against the backdrop of these same figures in the city’s cinematic archive, a major recalibration of Hong Kong moving-image culture can be enacted.

Songs and Satire: YouTube as Entry Point

Although long blocked in mainland China, YouTube has been an accessible and vibrant platform in Hong Kong, offering a space for everything from entertainment to educational betterment to political expression. The year 2019 saw no shortage of the latter, including farcical send-ups of on-screen cops.

Wong Hei, a former policeman himself, has played cops in numerous television dramas and films, starting with his first credited film role in Cadets on the Beat (豬仔出更, Wong Wa-Kei, 1986). Beginning in September 2019, Wong Hei posted to his personal YouTube channel a series titled Baton (警棍), a blunt reference to the HKPF’s instrument of choice. Each episode examines some facet of alleged police misbehavior; for example, the first episode tackles the issue of police serial numbers. Over the course of 2019, some police stopped displaying their ID numbers on their uniforms, making it all but impossible to file official complaints against specific officers. 8 Playing all the roles, Wong enacts an encounter between a protestor and a man who looks as much like a triad thug as a plainclothes police officer (a distinction increasingly discounted by local audiences). 9

The drama centers on the protestor’s attempt to learn the supposed policeman’s serial number after the latter demands to see his ID. A running gag throughout is the policeman’s attempt to intimidate the protestor with a “baton” (here, a series of toy axes) that inexplicably change in size from shot to shot. The farce escalates from there, pulling in an emergency-hotline operator and a host of political subtexts, before ending with a line from The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012) and a blow-up hammer graced with the visages of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf of Frozen (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013). Since Wong is fifty-three years old, these cultural references are a clue as to his intended audience. 10

Wong Hei plays both protestor (above) and cop/thug (below) in the first installment of his YouTube series “Baton”.

Many of the videos in Wong’s “Baton” series received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube (and further circulation as video clips on Facebook and Twitter) and led to a subsequent series of sketches beginning on February 14, 2020, for the long-running satirical TV show Headliner (頭條新聞). 11 Wong lampoons the HKPF’s response to COVID-19, at one point intimating that the force had amassed more personal protective equipment for themselves than that available to the doctors and nurses of Wuhan. 12 The production values may be slightly better than the Baton series, but the mode of delivery and subject matter make the Headliner sketches read as its spiritual extension. Headliner, an institution of local television with a reputation for speaking truth to power, was produced by the publicly funded Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). In the wake of Wong’s sketches, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau reprimanded the network for “insulting” the police. Headliner was suspended at the end of that season. 13

Wong’s police-focused satire had been able to jump from YouTube short to TV segment in one season, showing the productive coupling between web and TV texts and allowing Wong to reach a wider audience while winking at the viewers already familiar with Baton. However, the government’s response highlights an institutional friction that resists transmedial migration, blocking the intertextual potential of particular formats. 14

YouTube videos like Wong’s play to the dark humor of a younger generation cynical about police, while others, like the music video for the song “Glory to Hong Kong” (願榮光歸香港), tap into a common sense of struggle. Over the course of the summer, it became the movement’s anthem. Hong Kong has a long history of pairing song with protest, especially during its annual Tiananmen Square vigil in Victoria Park. A digital precedent was set during the Umbrella Movement, when one widely shared video leading up to the protests depicted a small child singing a Cantonese rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Misérables. 15

In 2019, “Glory to Hong Kong” gradually took its place. Developed as a collaboration among members of the forum LIHKG, it was frequently sung at street protests and in public spaces like malls and aboard the iconic Star Ferry. 16 A sleek music video of the song by Black Blorchestra was instrumental in broadcasting it at home and abroad and was even shown at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2020. 17 Rotterdam’s inclusion of digital works alongside films by Fruit Chan, Johnny Mak, and Herman Yau speaks to a growing recognition on the festival circuit of the productive dialog between digital offerings and the silver screen.

The Black Blorchestra music video begins with a magisterial drumroll, shot close-up on a snare, before panning over a brass section playing through face masks, their heads covered by helmets, goggles, bandanas, and the like. When the chorus appears similarly attired, it engenders a strong association between recent protest iconography (the outfit, the youth, the eyes turned up in determination) and the solemn tradition of full orchestra and chorus. The performance is then intercut with shots from the protests. Simulated tear gas is released into the orchestra as the music reaches its conclusion, but the musicians play on to the end. The silence after the final note is deafening, broken moments later by roadside recordings of the movement’s motto: “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time!” 18 The uttering of those words would be ruled illegal less than a year later, following Beijing’s passage of the Hong Kong national security law. 19

A Camera on Every Corner?

The genesis and circulation of works demonstrating the wit and spirit of protesters in their response to police brutality relied on the format of the livestream. Cameras ran during nearly every major protest, beginning in June. In addition to cell-phone footage by citizens from all walks of life, local television outlets and news sites including RTHK, nowTV, and Apple Daily sent out camera crews to provide constant visual access to the streets. Viewers hungry for greater visual saturation could use an online tool to assemble a grid of multiple livestreams at the same time. Footage circulated through clips on Twitter and Facebook and even in news segments on platforms around the globe.

At times, the number of cameras visibly exceeded the number of police, compounding a hypervigilant anxiety. Outlets that could afford multiple crews toggled their streams between cameras across the city. While some barreled into direct confrontations between protesters and police (or even among protesters), others kept their distance, peering down major thoroughfares from angles eerily similar to those of the morning-traffic cams of local news, marrying the extraordinary with the quotidian.

Those capturing the moments of greatest conflict were later repurposed and reshared. A now notorious clip originated in a TVB station feed of August 31, 2019, when police entered the Prince Edward Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station and began attacking passengers on a halted train. The camera looks through a train window from the platform at police beating something on the train floor. The obfuscation of the image due to the camera’s separation from the train’s interior is maddening, mirroring a sense of helplessness felt on the other side of the screen. When the camera finally dodges through an open train door, it reveals the object of police fury: screaming, cowering people on their knees. 20 Numerous other cameras captured the scene from slightly different angles, rendering a panopticonic memory of the event. 21

A chorus of protestors look on, in the Black Blorchestra rendition of “Glory to Hong Kong.”

The longer the livestreams ran, the more the image of the HKPF became tainted, echoing a similar phenomenon from the days of the Umbrella Movement, when camera images of tear gas turned public sentiment against the HKPF. 22 Now, viewers could see plainclothes police conducting illicit arrests and officers concealing themselves in ambulances. Finally, in a November 11, 2019, citizen broadcast that begins with a narrator/cameraman surveying a traffic jam in Sai Wan Ho, a neighborhood on eastern Hong Kong Island, a protestor is seen getting shot at point-blank range.

At the beginning, there’s detritus in the middle of the intersection—everything from chairs to glass shards to plastic crates. Police are nowhere in sight; protesters are few. Suddenly, the camera pivots 180 degrees. There’s a flash of yellow. “It’s a traffic cop,” the cameraman remarks. The policeman appears to be chasing someone, then darts forward to grab a figure in a white hoodie. The camera is just feet away. “He’s drawn a gun!” the cameraman cries as the policeman holds the figure with one hand and waves a pistol with the other. A black-clad protestor takes a few steps toward the policeman. The policeman brandishes his gun. The protestor continues forward, and the policeman shoots. The protestor clutches his side and falls to the ground. The camera turns as the cameraman runs away and asks in disbelief, “Was a gun just fired?” 23 Later reports verify that the officer shot twenty-one-year-old Chow Pak-kwan with a live round. The young man survived, though not without losing a kidney and part of his liver. The officer justified his actions by saying Chow had tried to grab his gun. 24

In an ideal world, livestreamed footage would ensure police accountability, but as in the United States, video cameras have never been a guarantor of justice. Benedict Stork has pushed back against the “evidentiary promise” of police-brutality videos, arguing they favor the analytical framework of a flawed criminal justice system and instead urging an aesthetics-based deconstructive approach as more politically viable. 25 In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, more than one commentator has asked why one video of that killing ignited a nationwide social movement when so many others that documented deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police had circulated for decades? 26

Hong Kong has struggled with the “evidentiary promise” of its own police-brutality videos since the Umbrella Movement. In addition to images of tear gas and of furious police storming occupation sites, the filmed beating of social worker and protestor Ken Tsang by police on October 15, 2014, led to widespread condemnation. 27 A day later, documentarian Louisa Wei published an essay, “The Age of Citizen Documentary” (全民紀錄的時代), in the local paper, Ming Pao (明報). She noted that recent pressure on media outlets had made it difficult for them to thoroughly and objectively report on the protests; only the event participants, with their myriad smartphones and manifold perspectives, could work together to offer a comprehensive record of their social movement. She reminded protesters, “We need to be clear that the recording device in everyone’s hands offers a mode of supervision as much as it does a way to film. Most young people taking part in the protests fully understand every picture, every video clip, and they can upload them online to become a part of the public media, which can then be republished and shared.” 28

Implicit in Wei’s advice is the notion that the mobility of filmed content within a network is equal in importance to its substance, for transmission ensures greater agency in the representation of protest actions and police responses. Control over such representation is a core mode of resistance that has been recognized as such in multiple countries and contexts. 29 Wei also takes on issues of distribution, supporting a digital model in which documentary material is shared and developed among members of a community rather than simply received by them, as in the art-house or festival models of old. 30

Stork’s skepticism regarding video as evidence remains warranted, however, given the eventual outcome of the Ken Tsang case. Although the seven police officers involved were convicted in 2017 of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, a judge overturned the guilty verdicts for two of the officers in 2019, while reducing the sentences of the remaining five. 31 There are, though, some Hong Kong protest works that aestheticize police brutality in the direction of Stork’s ideal, with evidential clarity sacrificed in favor of the highly dynamic and sensuous, upending a visual format so that it cannot privilege the police.

Charmaine Fong’s music video for her song “Tell Me What 7 You Say” (人話, 2019) uses rotoscoped versions of livestreamed footage from both the Prince Edward and Sai Wan Ho events, as well as police press conferences and iconic protest flash points. The screen abounds with multicolored fluorescent lines on black, marrying comic-book aesthetics with Hong Kong’s neon signs of old. Its earliest shot occurs inside the Prince Edward station, though the quaking frame and jittery lines can make the location difficult to place at first. A driving beat gradually rises in pitch and takes over the audio, joined by shots of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, that glitch in rhythm. Fong begins to sing in Cantonese: Your words infuriate. So does your special gift of faking neutrality. Censoring all wrongs, Our fate is one of injustice and degeneration. 32

Top, a scene captured moments before a policeman shoots Chow Pak-kwan, as seen on Cupid Producer’s November 11, 2019 Facebook livestream from Sai Wan Ho. Below, the same moment aestheticized in neon for Charmaine Fong’s music video, “Tell Me What 7 You Say.”

The video soon transitions into explicit moments of violence (train passengers bending beneath striking batons, Chow Pak-kwan being shot) as split-second images of Lam and other officials slip in on the beat, creating a link between a stuffy press conference and the chaos raging outside. At one point, the bottom of Fong’s track drops out, exposing an auditory snatch of the mayhem itself. 33

Throughout, “Tell Me What 7 You Say” maintains a sense of linguistic play. The first line of the chorus has Fong pronouncing the number seven in Cantonese, or chat. A homophone for one of many Cantonese equivalents of the f-word, it endows the line with translingual polysemy. What to English listeners sounds like “What’s that you say?” morphs into “What the fuck are you saying?” for the bilingual. In both instances, the question is rhetorical; Fong would be unlikely to take any government reply at its word. 34

The “Other” Cop Videos: A Genre Exposed

While Hong Kong’s protesters enjoyed substantial support from their community, approval was by no means universal, as shown by a Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute poll released by Reuters in late December 2019; it revealed that 59 percent of Hongkongers supported the protests while 30 percent opposed them. 35 There is a parallel canon of videos documenting instances of violence and overreach on the part of protestors. Particularly disturbing are videos from the occupation of Hong Kong International Airport, with one widely shared clip showing black-clad protesters repeatedly bludgeoning a police officer against a glass wall until he falls to the ground and draws a gun, at which point the protesters disperse without a shot fired. 36 Another features a mainland Chinese man being zip-tied to a luggage cart after protesters accused him of posing as a journalist (he was later identified as an editor for the state-run Global Times), an incident seen as a consequence of a xenophobic thread running through local pro-democracy rhetoric. 37 In pushing back against the CCP, some activists indiscriminately targeted all mainland Chinese people, advocating discrimination against anyone appearing to be from across the border. Since most mainland Chinese speak Mandarin and most Hongkongers speak Cantonese, a reliance on language as a key identity marker led to marked instances of linguistic discrimination. 38

The polarized optics of the 2019 protests perpetuated the contradictions inherent in the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, with a tendency to ascribe violence to one side of the barricades while overlooking it on the other. The mainland Chinese media labeled the protesters as “rioters” and the HKPF as paragons of patriotism—arguments made not just in op-eds but in slick social media videos with Hong Kong cinematic references.

In early August 2019, Xiaoyang Video, a short-video outfit under China Central Television (CCTV), released an extraordinary video montage in both Cantonese and Mandarin versions, via the social media accounts of state-run media outlets and on both sides of the Great Firewall, for both mainland and Hong Kong audiences. 39 Entitled Evil Never Triumphs! Mr. Policeman, 1.4 Billion Compatriots Support You! (邪不压正!阿Sir, 14亿同胞撑你!), it is a montage of clips from numerous Hong Kong films featuring the HKPF, including Cold War 2 (寒戰 II, Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, 2016), Line Walker (使徒行者, Jazz Boon, 2016), and Project Gutenberg (無雙, Felix Chong, 2018) intercut with shots from the Hong Kong protests, testimony from an actual Hong Kong police officer, and intertitles urging viewers to support the Hong Kong Police Force. 40

The mash-up opens with clouds gathering over Hong Kong’s financial center before cutting to the well-angled face of actor Aaron Kwok, in his perennial guise as an on-screen policeman, shown in a range of dramatic situations while in the line of duty. In addition to verbalizing the threat of “terrorists” to Hong Kong, his dialogue includes a telling line: “Hong Kong is not a place for you to simply do whatever you want.” The choice to open with cinematic police is key, for Evil Never Triumphs! mobilizes an established admiration for fictional movie police to rally support for the real-life ones accused of abuse. The only police firing shots in this montage are the fictional ones (though bullets are never shown hitting enemy bodies). Meanwhile, although the real police officers are shown holding batons and guns, the clips always cut away before the police strike the hordes of protesters. The role of the police officer as enactor of violence is thus submerged in order to construct in its place that of a loyal protector, a pinnacle of restraint, who bears all to safeguard the national interest.

A more provocative aspect of Evil Never Triumphs! is its encapsulation of a particular metanarrative regarding the Hong Kong film industry. More than half of the thirteen films included in its montage are Hong Kong–mainland coproductions. In recent decades, the Hong Kong film industry’s access to the mainland has largely relied on the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), a law implemented in 2004. Although it exempted Hong Kong films from China’s foreign-film import quota under certain conditions, it also incentivized Hong Kong production companies to form coproductions with mainland partners, giving them favorable distribution terms within the mainland market and leading to over half of all Hong Kong productions following a coproduction model in recent years. 41

Aaron Kwok in the 2016 blockbuster Cold War 2, repurposed for a 2019 political message in Chinese state media’s Evil Never Triumphs!

Of all the coproduced genres, the cops-and-robbers film (警匪片, gingfeipin) and its subgenre, the undercover film (臥底片, ngodaipin), have been particularly successful in mainland markets, combining Hong Kong’s cinematic brand of slick action with the fan appeal of stars like Andy Lau and Louis Koo. Local critics have helped solidify the notion that the cops-and-robbers genre is a distinctly Hong Kong export. 42 Some of the critical value of the cops-and-robbers film in Sinophone writing is due to its role in underwriting the overall health of the local film industry. 43 One 1996 essay began, “The cops-and-robbers film has been an important genre in Hong Kong cinema for the past twenty years,” and is echoed nearly two decades later by a review announcing, “Cops-and-robber/crime genre films have been the long-term mainstream of Hong Kong cinema.” 44

Incredibly popular prior to the 1997 handover and in the years that followed—led by Infernal Affairs (無間道, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, 2002), one of Hong Kong’s most successful and influential undercover cops-and-robbers films to date—the form lapsed in the mid-2000s before enjoying something of a revival in the past decade. In summer 2019, the highest-grossing Chinese-language film in China was the cops-and-robbers film The White Storm 2: Drug Lords (掃毒2天地對決, Herman Yau, 2019), a coproduction that was a Lau/Koo vehicle. 45 Since coproductions must deal with censorship at multiple stages of production and Hong Kong producers must please mainland investors and talent, they can lead to uncomfortable compromises such as deus ex machina endings in which mainland Public Security forces (公安, gongan in Mandarin) save the day, not the Hong Kong police themselves. 46

As the 2019 protests were getting started, one Hongkonger wondered if the film industry had compromised too much. Bryan Chang penned a highly skeptical foreword for the summer edition of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society quarterly journal, HKinema. Chang opened his essay on (mainland) Chinese film by writing instead about Hong Kong through a focus on Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch (追龍II : 賊王, Wong Jing and Jason Kwan, 2019), one of that summer’s other big coproductions, in which a prominent drug lord can be brought to justice only after he is lured across the border to mainland China and caught by Guangdong authorities. (Somehow, the Hong Kong criminal justice system can’t prosecute him.)

The choice of narrative strikes Chang as oddly suggestive, given the ongoing debates over Hong Kong’s extradition bill. Witnessing the undercover subgenre hijacked to portray Public Security on the mainland as the mastermind behind a local Hong Kong criminal investigation was just too much for the film critic; Chang accused Hongkongers participating in coproductions of having shamelessly “sold out the unique subculture of the cops-and-robbers film wholesale.” 47 In the months that followed, the genre’s future was thrown into further doubt by events in Hong Kong. For many Hongkongers, police violence and lack of accountability collapsed any distinction between police and triads, further demonstrated by the revival of the invective haakging (黑警) or “triad police,” a relic from decades past when corruption was rampant within the Hong Kong Police Force and collusion with the triads commonplace. 48

In Arresting Cinema: Surveillance in Hong Kong Film, scholar Karen Fang notes: “Hong Kong film is so filled with police images that their ubiquity obscures the cinema’s unusually close relationship to the actual surveillance institution that those fictional images portray.” 49 Fang goes on to elaborate a fascinating history of collaboration between the HKPF and the local film and television industries, a partnership that effectively helped rescue the former’s reputation from the colonial gutter. In the decades after World War II, Hong Kong police were frequently accused of corruption, accusations borne out on-screen through figures like the bribe-hungry officer in The House of 72 Tenants (七十二家房客, Chor Yuen, 1973). Fang argues that it was through parallel acts of institutional reform and positive portrayal in film and television (often with HKPF input) that the force “successfully erased its once-contested colonial history to become widely regarded as one of the world’s most admired and celebrated police forces.” 50 Fang might well have to update her book now.

In a March 2020 essay, writer and critic Shum Long Tin questioned whether future iterations of cops-and-robbers films are even possible. He notes how the development of the undercover subgenre had once allowed Hong Kong filmmakers to explore both complex social issues and local identity by blurring the lines between good and evil and portraying heroes and villains on both sides of the law. But now? Shum writes that the “haakging [dirty cops], which might appear romantic or even enlightening in the artificial world of cinema, suddenly becomes far less likable and forgivable when placed into the real world.” 51

The Ghost of Intertextuality Future

The sheer volume of moving images of the 2019 protests left Hong Kong reeling. During the movement, digital media was a source of both trauma and catharsis, but as protests ebbed and Beijing’s intrusions into the city increased, anxieties surrounding local image production rose. In his essay, Shum wonders if the genre would become “abominable pro-government propaganda” or perhaps venture into the realm of documentary “given that even the most outrageous plotting could never be as shocking as that which has already passed.” 52

Others envisioned more-radical possibilities. In a conversation I had with him, Bryan Chang drew attention to the mouhaappin (武俠片) or wuxiapian (in Mandarin) genre, known for valiant tales of a near-mythical past and generally featuring martial arts with blades and weapons. Though the demands of period filming can make such scripts prohibitively expensive for young directors, Chang wondered if the genre might be adapted to the modern day. Jotting characters in my notebook as he spoke, he drew a parallel between the knights errant of old and the glamorous image of the most fearless—and violent—faction of present-day protestors, the yungmoupaai (勇武派). Might a brave young director try to tell such a tale? 53

Before long, such a project felt next to impossible: Beijing passed a national security law for Hong Kong in the summer of 2020, prompting local and foreign observers to pronounce it the death knell for civil liberties and political expression in the city. Not only did the law crack down on speech acts committed by people of any country, but it widened the scope of the police’s investigatory powers while also opening the door for trials in mainland China—essentially a backdoor version of the extradition treaty that had ignited the 2019 protests in the first place. 54

New fears about what could and couldn’t be expressed on the screen even attracted the attention of the Hollywood trade papers. Variety noted: “The law could … be an inflection point for many of Hong Kong’s film companies that have so far tried to have their cake and eat it, too … enjoying their own territory’s greater freedoms while maintaining access to China’s larger, strictly censored market.” The article quoted a local filmmaker wondering if the award-winning anthology film Ten Years (十年, Kwok Zune, Wong Fei-Pang, Jevons Au, Chow Kwun-Wai, and Ng Ka-Leung, 2015), which imagined five different versions of a mainlandized Hong Kong in 2025, would be legal in the new environment. 55

The events of 2019 remain so fresh and laws have changed so fast that to make predictions about future Hong Kong film productions is impossible. However, what is clear is that frames of reference for watching Hong Kong must shift. Holding to past conceptions of Hong Kong cinema would be myopic, both in its scope of Hong Kong visual culture and the city’s ability to project its own image. 56 While Hong Kong films have enjoyed decades of global influence, the recent explosion of highly charged digital and online work has recast its cinema’s status. A clear acknowledgement of the digital in this environment would grant Hong Kong a broader degree of agency as it copes with unbelievable pressures. As local poet and academic Tammy Lai-Ming Ho tweeted in August 2020, “Please STOP saying *something something* in Hong Kong is dead. We are here. We are living.” 57

One last video examination helps drive her point home. The YouTube trailer for the Thirty-Ninth Hong Kong Film Awards, held on May 6, 2020, draws on clips and dialogue from the nominated films. 58 Its opening lines craft a poem that speaks to the soul of the city:Some things could be understood very differently by each individualWith various meaningsThis used to be our playgroundThis was our playgroundThis is our playground

The last three lines are in English, spoken in the context of a school lesson from Better Days (少年的你, Derek Tsang, 2019), their shift in tense conjuring up a childhood haunt now fighting against disappearance. A concurrent sense of nostalgia is framed by shots of familiar Hong Kong traditions and landmarks: the Tai Hang fire-dragon dance, the Cheung Chau bun festival, and the majestic Victoria Harbor. The last shot gains further significance through its angle; rather than facing Hong Kong Island and the towers of Central, like most international blockbusters and the glossy films of Evil Will Never Prevail! do, this shot looks back at the working-class districts of Kowloon Peninsula, Lion Rock looming on one side of the frame. It is Hong Kong as home—not the Hong Kong of the overused glocal metropolitan establishing shot.

Later, when the clips become more frantic—a crashing car, a falling body—Donnie Yen (in Ip Man 4: The Finale, 葉問4 : 完結篇, Wilson Yip, 2019) enters to explain where the montage is going: “When facing injustice, I must stand up and fight.” It becomes impossible not to read the rest of the clips as narrating the 2019 protests. “Drop the gun,” Andy Lau (in The White Storm 2: Drug Lords) orders at one point. “He is above the law.” Not long after, there is an exchange from A Witness Out of the Blue (犯罪現場, Andrew Fung, 2019). “Is this for justice or vengeance?” a police detective (Louis Cheung) yells at another (Philip Keung), who responds, “Aren’t they the same thing?” The steady rhythm of outbursts is broken by the sobbing Megan Lai in Heiward Mak’s Fagara (花椒之味, 2019), who asks over clips of a man being detained by police and a brilliant fire: “What if we have tried our best and the world doesn’t become better? What do we do?”

The trailer for the 2020 Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony superimposed dialogue from Derek Tsang’s Better Days beneath a panoramic shot of Victoria Harbor from Ray Yeung’s Suk Suk/Twilight’s Kiss.

A character from the Taiwanese film Detention (返校, John Hsu, 2019) gives the response: “While there is life, there is hope.” I would offer a millennial corollary: where there is digital, there is hope. The very same technology that allows state media to splice together and disseminate a montage lionizing the police also enables the Hong Kong cineaste to create a supercut to intervene in a dark time. Through the Eisensteinian black magic of intertextual montage, rule-following superstars like Donnie Yen and Andy Lau are recruited to push a subversive message. Films of all genres and origins—Hong Kong films and mainland films, Cantonese films and Mandarin films, blockbusters and art-house fare, queer films, thrillers, kung fu—are made to work together to express the deepest concerns of a city at risk. Even with structural and political crises growing and a recent national security law further dampening expressions of resistance, Hong Kong ingenuity is not in short supply. I have no doubt that Hong Kong will find a way to remix what it has and make it work.

Author’s note: This essay would not have been possible without the generosity and help of A. C. Baecker, Bryan Chang, Cassian Cheung, Shelly Kraicer, Pierre Lam, Natalie Tsz Lam Ngai, Markus Nornes, Mavis Siu, Isabella Steger, Shu Kei, Freddie Wong, and Charlotte Chun Lam Yiu. Translations of Chinese texts into English are my own, unless otherwise noted.


1. Narratives of the 2014 protests remain incredibly diverse. Shu here refers to an earlier movement, Occupy Central with Love and Peace, led by seasoned activists Benny Tai, Chu Yiu-ming, and Chan Kin-man, which essentially converged with the student demonstrations led by Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students to become the Umbrella Movement. However, other accounts give less weight to theoretical underpinnings of the movement or efforts by different factions to steer it. For students who took part, visceral experiences of police violence led to complex memories of trauma and a perception that their own government saw them as “the enemy.” For example, see Mavis Siu’s documentary Mong Kok First Aid (成年禮, 2019), which weaves together testimonies from frontline first-aid volunteers with the director’s own experiences.
2. Shu Kei, discussion with the author, November 29, 2019. Shu has a decades-old interest in questions surrounding democracy and Hong Kong politics. For a fuller sense of his perspective, see his documentary Sunless Days (沒有太陽的日子, 1991), which reflects on the then recent crackdown in Tiananmen Square and its impact on Hongkongers. More recently, he appeared in the Evans Chan documentary Raise the Umbrellas (撐雨, 2016).
3. See “Speech by President Jiang Zemin of The People’s Republic of China,” October 30, 1997, https://asiasociety.org/speech-president-jiang-zemin-peoples-republic-china.
4. Clarence Tsui, “China Appoints Jackie Chan to Top Political Advisory Body,” Hollywood Reporter, February 1, 2013, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jackie-chan-political-role-china-417401.
5. Loh Keng Fatt, “No Job Offers for Anthony Wong despite Winning Best Actor at Hong Kong Film Awards,” Straits Times, May 6, 2019, http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/no-job-offers-for-anthony-wong-despite-winning-best-actor-at-hong-kong-film. Wong had won awards for his roles in Beast Cops (野獸刑警, Gordon Chan and Dante Lam, 1998) and Still Human (淪落人, Oliver Siu Kuen Chan, 2018).
6. Andrew Darley, Visual Digital Culture: Surface Play and Spectacle in New Media Genres (New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2000), 134.
7. Unless otherwise noted, Chinese characters are romanized to reflect their Cantonese reading.
8. Kris Cheng, “Hong Kong Activists Complain Police Failed to Display ID Numbers, as Security Chief Says Uniform Has ‘No Room,’” Hong Kong Free Press, June 20, 2019, https://hongkongfp.com/2019/06/21/hong-kong-activists-complain-police-failed-display-id-numbers-security-chief-says-uniform-no-room/; Alvin Lum, “Identification of Hong Kong Riot Officers Using Undisclosed Codes on Helmets Is ‘Unsatisfactory,’ Police Watchdog Says, Calling for Clarity and Accountability,” South China Morning Post, August 23, 2019, http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3024160/identification-hong-kong-riot-officers-using-undisclosed.
9. On July 21, 2019, a hundred or so men, clad in white and armed with sticks (and generally assumed to be triad members) attacked passengers alighting at Yuen Long MTR station. The police took thirty-five minutes to respond, claiming that the emergency-response phone hotline was jammed that night, though their tardiness was later decried as passive collusion with the triads. See Christy Leung, “Police Handling of Yuen Long Attacks the Main Source of Hongkongers’ Complaints against Force Since Anti-Government Protests Began,” South China Morning Post, September 17, 2019, http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-and-crime/article/3027727/police-handling-yuen-long-attacks-main-source.
10. 隨喜遇見, “警棍 : 第一集” [Baton: Episode 1], YouTube video, 4:31, September 13, 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FT4_Yor_Cf8.
11. Punning on the Cantonese equivalent of “A message from the police” (警方訊息, or gingfong seunsik), the segment is titled “A message from the alarmists” (驚方訊息, gingfong seunsik, evoking the Cantonese pronunciation of 驚慌).
12. At the time of writing, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) had removed Wong’s sketches from the Headliner episodes published on the network’s website, including the February 14 episode in which the first installment aired: https://www.rthk.hk/tv/dtt31/programme/headliner/episode/623786.
13. “RTHK to Suspend News Satire Show ‘Headliner’ after Criticism That Episode Was ‘Insulting’ to Police,” Coconuts Hong Kong, May 20, 2020, https://coconuts.co/hongkong/news/rthk-to-suspend-news-satire-show-headliner-after-criticism-that-episode-was-insulting-to-police/.
14. Note that the evolution of Wong’s cop-focused comedy did not end with the RTHK segments. In August 2020, the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily (蘋果日報) began releasing a show on YouTube and Facebook titled Mobile Headliner (頭條動新聞) that pays homage to the RTHK show, even recruiting one of the old hosts, Tsang Chi-ho. Wong reprises his role as a police officer, this time for a segment skewering the daily four o’clock news briefings from the HKPF notorious during both the 2019 and 2014 protests. HK Apple Daily, “《頭條動新聞》 Ep.1 (蘋果日報 Appledaily)” [Mobile Headliner: Episode 1 Apple Daily], YouTube video, 16:07, August 2, 2020, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QfHyCq45j4.
15. See Tim Rühlig’s study for fascinating interviews with protesters regarding the role YouTube music videos played in the Umbrella Movement; particularly interesting is the split Rühlig finds between moderates and radicals in terms of anti-mainland rhetoric and xenophobia; the divide has become only more extreme since then. Tim Rühlig, “‘Do You Hear the People Sing’ ‘Lift Your Umbrella’?: Understanding Hong Kong’s Pro-Democratic Umbrella Movement through YouTube Music Videos,” China Perspectives, no. 2016/4: 59–68. The link to the original 2014 video of the child singing is no longer active, but copies often appear on YouTube and other platforms with the title “孩子問 : 誰還未覺醒” [A Child Asks: Who Has Not Yet Awakened?].
16. The song’s composer is listed as thomas dgx yhl, while the Chinese lyricists are t and LINKgers (眾連登仔). The English lyrics have been variously attributed to 七劍浣春 (in the video’s credits) and to Dr Rubbish Teen and LINKGers (in subsequent republishings). For a video of passengers singing on the Star Ferry, see SavingHongKong, Sing Glory to Hong Kong at Star Ferry, Imgur video, 0:44, September 19, 2019, https://imgur.com/t/singing/hqrns9v.
17. The special section at Rotterdam, curated by Shelly Kraicer, was titled “Ordinary Heroes: Made in Hong Kong” and included feature films, documentaries, and an eclectic mix of shorts. For the entire program, see https://iffr.com/en/2020/programme/ordinary-heroes-made-in-hong-kong.
18. 黑方格BlackBlog, “《願榮光歸香港》 管弦樂團及合唱團版 MV,” [Glory to Hong Kong: Orchestra and Chorus Version MV], YouTube video, 2:09, September 11, 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUIDL4SB60g.
19. Iain Marlow and Natalie Lung, “Hong Kong Says Common Protest Slogan Calling for ‘Revolution’ Is Now Illegal under National Security Law,” Time, July 3, 2020, https://time.com/5862683/hong-kong-revolution-protest-chant-security-law/.
20. For a capture of the livestream, see 七夕, “20190831 [影片01:00] 香港太子站地鐵車箱內 警察速龍小隊打市民 TVB” [Inside MTR Car at Hong Kong Prince Edward Station, Police Raptor Unit Beats Citizens], YouTube video, 12:45, August 31, 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SDBSAl0Ebo.
21. For a slightly different angle—and a shot of the other cameras present—see Hong Kong Free Press, “Hong Kong Riot Police Storm Train and Beat, Arrest Protesters at Prince Edward MTR,” YouTube video, 3:14, September 1, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG8zzs3KWbw.
22. Gary Tang, “Mobilization by Images: TV Screen and Mediated Instant Grievances in the Umbrella Movement,” Chinese Journal of Communication 8, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 338–55.
23. Cupid Producer, “Cupid Producer Was Live,” Facebook video, 19:21, November 10, 2019, http://www.facebook.com/CupidProducer/videos/.
24. Alvin Lum, “Hong Kong Protests: Man Shot by Police Officer in Sai Wan Ho Hits Out at ‘Ridiculous’ Use of Live Round at Such Close Range,” South China Morning Post, November 23, 2019, http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3039078/hong-kong-protests-man-shot-police-officer-sai-wan-ho-hits.
25. Benedict Stork, “Aesthetics, Politics, and the Police Hermeneutic: Online Videos of Police Violence beyond the Evidentiary Function,” Film Criticism 40, no. 2 (July 2016).
26. Jamil Smith provided an incisive take on this problematic for the NPR podcast Code Switch. See Jamil Smith, “A Decade of Watching Black People Die,” podcast transcript, Code Switch, May 31, 2020, http://www.npr.org/transcripts/865261916.
27. For initial coverage of Tsang’s beating, as well as the footage in question, see Keith Bradsher and Michael Forsythe, “Beating of Democracy Advocate in Hong Kong Fuels Public Outcry,” New York Times, October 15, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/16/world/asia/video-of-apparent-beating-of-protester-in-hong-kong-stirs-anger.html.
28. The essay was later reprinted for the Hong Kong Film Critic’s Society’s retrospective. 魏時煜, “全民紀錄的時代” [The Age of Citizen Documentary], 香港電影2014, ed. 黃志輝 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Film Critics Society, 2015): 195.
29. See Christopher Robé, “El Grito de Sunset Park: Cop Watching, Community Organizing, and Video Activism,” Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 59, no. 2 (2020): 62–87.
30. Unsurprisingly, one film to come out of the Umbrella Movement embraced Wei’s model with alacrity. Billed as a “crowdsourced documentary,” Umbrella Revolution: History as a Mirror of Reflection (雨傘革命實錄 : 以史為鏡, Kemptom Lam, 2015) was made open access on YouTube in 2016. The work features clips of varying quality and aspect ratio, with everything from volleys of tear gas to indie rock concerts to on-the-street interviews, as well as the occasional dance-off. Kempton Lam, “Umbrella Revolution: History as Mirror Reflection 雨傘革命實錄 : 以史為鏡,” YouTube video, 1:51:25, March 17, 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcvZrQiWBR0.
31. Holmes Chan, “Two Hong Kong Cops Freed over Activist Ken Tsang Assault Case, Five Others Have Jail Terms Reduced,” Hong Kong Free Press, July 26, 2019, https://hongkongfp.com/2019/07/26/breaking-2-7-hong-kong-cops-walk-free-winning-court-appeal-ken-tsang-assault-case/.
32. English lyrics reflect the translated subtitles published with Fong’s YouTube video. Charmaine Fong, “方皓玟 – 人話 (Explicit Content) [Official Music Video]” (Charmaine Fong – What 7 You Say), YouTube video, 3:28, November 30, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENB0BeZx4yw.
33. Cineastes might notice a parallel with the soundtrack of Wong Kar-wai’s 2046 (2004), which at one point features an outburst of sound from Hong Kong’s 1967 riots—another complex and violent conflict sometimes analyzed alongside recent political upheaval. In 2046, the recording features an agitated voice screaming in English, “Get away! Get away!” It can be heard in the film just after the opening credits. In the official CD, it appears on the track “2046 Main Theme (With Percussion – Train Remix),” alongside other sounds of protest, news broadcasts, and even the voice of Margaret Thatcher. For documentary evidence of the recording, see the RTHK documentary 《六七暴動五十年》 (50 Years since the Disturbance of ’67), produced in 2017 for the TV newsmagazine This Week (視點31).
34. “Tell Me What 7 You Say” also screened at Rotterdam in 2020.
35. James Pomfret and Clare Jim, “Exclusive: Hong Kongers Support Protester Demands; Minority Wants Independence from China – Reuters Poll,” Reuters, December 31, 2019, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests-poll-exclusive/exclusive-hong-kongers-support-protester-demands-minority-wants-independence-from-china-reuters-poll-idUSKBN1YZ0VK.
36. CNA, “Protesters Clash with Police at Hong Kong Airport,” YouTube video, 2:27, August 13, 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpQpwQijRzg.
37. CNA, “Hong Kong Airport Protesters Tie Up Man Later Identified as Global Times Reporter,” YouTube video, 2:23, August 13, 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4GXZOss6J4.
38. For example, see Crystal Xu, “‘No Mandarin Allowed’: Dining in ‘Hongkongers-Only’ Restaurants,” Inkstone, February 6, 2019, http://www.inkstonenews.com/opinion/no-mandarin-speakers-dining-hongkongers-only-restaurants-during-coronavirus/article/3049303.
39. Platforms included China Daily’s Weibo account, CCTV’s Douyin account, and Xiaoyang Video’s Bilibili and YouTube channels. (The YouTube version was removed in 2020.)
40. For the full list of films that make an appearance, see Emily Lo, “Chinese State Media Use Fictional Hong Kong Police Movie Clips to Praise Actual Hong Kong Police Force,” Mothership, 2:31, August 22, 2019, https://mothership.sg/2019/08/chinese-propaganda-video-hong-kong-police/; to view the Cantonese version on Bilibili, see小央视频, “粤语版 : 邪不压正!阿Sir, 14亿同胞撑你!” [Cantonese Version: Evil Never Triumphs! Mr. Policeman, 1.4 Billion Compatriots Support You!], Bilibili video, 2:31, August 12, 2019, https://www.bilibili.com/video/av63478424/; for Mandarin, see小央视频, “混剪爆燃视频 : 邪不压正!阿Sir, 14亿同胞撑你!” [Explosive Montage: Evil Never Triumphs! Mr. Policeman, 1.4 Billion Compatriots Support You!], Bilibili video, August 12, 2019, https://www.bilibili.com/video/av63402405/.
41. Cheung Chi-fai, “Challenges of the Film Industry in Hong Kong,” Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, March 23, 2016, https://www.legco.gov.hk/research-publications/english/essentials-1516ise13-challenges-of-the-film-industry-in-hong-kong.htm.
42. In 2012, Bryan Chang of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society (HKFCS) wrote an essay justifying this stance, explaining: “Among Western genres, there is no gingfeipin. Don’t trust me? Just Google it. They have DETECTIVE FILM, GANGSTER FILM, CRIME FILM, but there doesn’t seem to be COPS AND ROBBERS FILM.” Bryan Chang 張偉雄, “一個走一個追 : 香港警匪片的次類型生態” [One flees, one chases: Hong Kong’s cop and robber sub-genre ecosystem], in 號外, March 2012, http://www.filmcritics.org.hk/film-review/node/2017/07/06/.
43. Some scholars prefer the translation “cop and criminal” film. See Stephen Teo, Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Film (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007), 3; and Petra Rehling, “Beyond the Crisis: The ‘Chaotic Formula’ of Hong Kong Cinema,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 16, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 531–47.
44. Po Fung 蒲鋒, “九六年香港電影中的警察” [The cop in Hong Kong films of ’96], in 1996香港電影回顧, https://www.filmcritics.org.hk/film-review/node/2015/06/22/; Xing Guang 行光, “丁權爭奪肥皂劇 《竊聽風雲3》” [Soap Opera Struggles of Property Rights: Overheard 3], 大公報, June 12, 2014, https://www.filmcritics.org.hk/film-review/node/2017/06/22/.
45. Clarence Tsui, “Hong Kong cinema is not dead, as recent Chinese box office successes show,” South China Morning Post Magazine, August 29, 2019, https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/arts-music/article/3024826/hong-kong-cinema-not-dead-recent-chinese-box.
46. Ironically, director Herman Yau wrote his doctoral dissertation on political censorship in Hong Kong cinema. Herman Yau, “The Progression of Political Censorship: Hong Kong Cinema from Colonial Rule to Chinese-Style Socialist Hegemony,” (PhD diss., Lingnan University, 2015).
47. Bryan Chang 張偉雄, “Foreword 前言,” in HKinema 47 (2019): 1.
48. Martin Purbrick, “A Report of the 2019 Hong Kong Protests,” Asian Affairs 50, no. 4 (2019): 465–87.
49. Karen Fang, Arresting Cinema: Surveillance in Hong Kong Film (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017), 93.
50. Fang, 94–95.
51. Earlier in the essay, Shum also touches on the controversial appearance of Jackie Chan at a banquet with a number of police officials at the height of Hong Kong’s initial COVID-19 wave. The Hong Kong commissioner of police, Chris Tang Ping-Keung, joked that he learned how to be a policeman from Chan’s many on-screen turns as a policeman. Shum notes that in many of Chan’s roles, he displays a sort of macho bravura that endangers those around him, suggesting that in light of the HKPF’s action during 2019 protests, Tang was indeed speaking the truth. Shum Long Tin, 朗天, “警暴九個月後, 香港警匪電影還能怎樣拍下去?” [After Nine Months of Police Violence, How Can the Gingfeipin Continue to Be Filmed?], 端傳媒, March 13, 2020, https://theinitium.com/article/20200313-culture-police-and-society-hongkong-movie-future/.
52. 朗天, “警暴九個月後.”
53. Bryan Chang, conversation with the author, November 28, 2019.
54. Javier C. Hernández, “Harsh Penalties, Vaguely Defined Crimes: Hong Kong’s Security Law Explained,” New York Times, June 30, 2020, http://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/30/world/asia/hong-kong-security-law-explain.html.
55. Patrick Frater and Rebecca Davis, “Hong Kong’s Controversial National Security Law Could Have Global Implications,” Variety, July 14, 2020, https://variety.com/2020/digital/features/hong-kong-national-security-law-economy-tech-1234703951/.
56. Scholars and authors in a variety of disciplines have recognized the importance of film and digital media in analyzing the events of both 2014 and 2019. See Anthony Daprian, City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong (Minneapolis: Scribe, 2020); Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink (New York: Columbia Global Reports, 2020); and Pang Laikwan, The Appearing Demos: Hong Kong during and after the Umbrella Movement (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020).
57. t, Twitter Post, August 10, 2020, 5:31 p.m., https://twitter.com/myetcetera/status/1292755706894934018.
58. The quoted English subtitles reflect those published with the video. Hong Kong Film Awards 香港電影金像獎, “第39屆香港電影金像獎: 預告” [The Thirty-Ninth Hong Kong Film Awards: Trailer], YouTube video, 2:57, April 20, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtdbxH7wB7U.

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