When you're being battered,
first and foremost,
deal with your anger and horror.
Jaco Chau has taken part in social movements for ten years and been arrested more than 20 times. He had a presence in nearly every social movement including the anti-WTO protest, the anti-high speed rail movement and the 2013 Hong Kong dock strike. He truly deserves the name of a "valiant protester", who experienced excessive force used by the police when the latter were still not described as "black cops". Jaco says if he is being battered by police, he will try to deal with his emotions and consolidate his will. At a time when the police use particularly excessive force, this kind of emotional assistance and training of one's will become more crucial.
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In mid-June, 2014, the anti-Northeast New Territories development movement was in deep waters. As anticipated by Jaco, he would be arrested in the protest. It was no big deal since that would be one of his 20 or so arrests in ten years. What was unexpected was that the police had set him up so as to beat him up stealthily.
Psych yourself up
"Even if you expect you would die one day, you still feel shocked when the doctor tells you have cancer. What, Here it comes!" When Jaco was carried into a police car he was stunned since the light was off and the drapes shut, "I'm gonna be in big trouble."
There they were: after getting in the car, they heavily assaulted the four people arrested, including Jaco. Not knowing how much time had passed in the darkness, he was pressed in the back of the head by a police officer, who ordered him to lower his head and not to look around, and pulled his hair towards the front seats and the car windows. In the meantime, the officer kept asking him whether he is a triad member, which Jaco firmly denied. The police officer said, "Okay. This one has admitted he's from Sun Yee On." Then the officer pulled Jaco's hair downward and pinched his face, and scolded, "I told you to lower your head!", and spitting at him, tweaking his ear and face, which made his face bleed. Then the officer scolded him again, "They're only chaps, aren't they? You don't need to go to hospital, don't you? When he arrived at the police station, knowing that the lawyer had come, the officer ordered him to wash away the "red matter" in the toilet. Jaco said he wanted to see the lawyer. The officer replied loudly, "Got it! The arrestee says he doesn't need a lawyer." Jaco was blocked from seeing a lawyer all day and night.
Photo Credit: Chau Ho [email protected] Social Press
In the face of law enforcers' violence, what could we do?
Jaco says you need to keep taking deep breaths, calm yourself down and remember every detail that might be useful as evidence in the future.
"That they see that you could not resist at all and take pleasure in it will make you furious and keep toying with the idea of taking a pen from your bag and stab him right away. And you would think that might actually work." Jaco said one must resist such a desire because resistance would only lead to greater violence, and most importantly, Jaco refuses to let himself be lured into the trap of being charged with assaulting a police officer.
"After being beaten up, you would be told by the police, 'It's so easy for me to ensnare you, isn't it?' True, they got your address. That makes you scared. Should I rebut his words?" Jaco reminds us that we need to overcome this worry and pay attention to our every reply, "It's very important to think it over before saying it out."
"Unless you're heavily injured, don't say 'I need a check-up.' Firstly they don't have such a procedure. Secondly they might conspire to make wrong statements to countersue you." Jaco suggests that if our wounds are pretty mild, we should go to public hospital after we are away from the police. We may go to a private hospital for detailed check-ups if we need extra help. "Some people are concerned about the police stationed at public hospitals. But you're already arrested, why would that concern you? Also the A&E services are the quickest. It might take a longer time to see a doctor from civic organisations like Médecins Inspirés. The courts might even challenge your claim by associating the severity with the service you pay.
Photo Credit: Jimmy [email protected] Social Press
How could we assist companions who have been beaten up?
"One would need many supporters outside the police station. Emotionally speaking that's important." Jaco laughs that he does not know how to express his emotions. Regarding such a predicament faced by today's protesters, he chooses to suppress and control his emotions and focuses on practical assistance.
The most basic is funding. Many arrestees'' phones are confiscated. Then they lose their jobs. "After being arrested, they have to stick to the curfew order after being released on bail. If they have to stay home from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., how could they work as casual workers or work the night shift? There are also some employers who fear that trouble from the police and triad members would ensure. So they would not employ arrested protesters. If the arrestee has financial difficulty, he or she might apply for funding from civic organisations.
What Jaco usually does is to help the arrestee write down the details of the incident, which must be jotted down before they are forgotten and given to a lawyer for future civil lawsuits. "After you're arrested, the police could search your house at any time. So you must leave at home anything that could be used as evidence against you. Otherwise they would help the police spin a better story."
As for the reason for not initiating private prosecution but filing civil lawsuits, Jaco says it is because "Citizens don't have investigative powers so they could not dig into a case like a police officer, making it impossible to reach the standard of proof, which is one of beyond reasonable doubt. But civil lawsuits only require a satisfying account of an event. The only thing is that civil lawsuits would only be handled after the criminal ones, which means cases in 2014 would only be dealt with in early 2019. Some of these cases have not even been concluded.
It takes a long time for fairness and justice to come. In Jaco's words, "Resistance is eternal."
Now he takes a back seat to provide assistance. Other than his age, that was due to the words from a senior in social movements that he strictly bears in mind, "The more unpopular a position is, the more you should try to contribute to it. Only by doing so could the resistance carry on."
- When police assault you abusively, take a deep breath to calm yourself down. Remember every detail that might serve as evidence.
- Assuage your anger. Don't lose control over it lest more violence will ensue.
- Constrain your fear. Don't hold back because of police's intimidation. Try to lodge civil lawsuits afterwards.
- If injuries are serious, request immediate hospitalisation. Otherwise, go to a public hospital to have your wounds examined after being released on bail.
- Helpers should help jot down detailed notes on how their companions were being assaulted and let a lawyer keep their statements.