is the greatest support to the arrested.
~Johnson Yeung Ching Yin
After joining the march in Central and Western District in Hong Kong on 28 July 2019, Johnson Yeung Ching Yin was held under detention in a sauna-like car park of Kwai Chung Division Police Station, where he meditated to pass time. Johnson holds a HKU master of laws (LL.M) program in human rights at the University of Hong Kong and is a board member of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
Interviewer / Amanda Article / LingChu. Translation / Happy Short film production / Mooner.hk
Since the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement more than a thousand people were arrested. Reports about the abuse of power and indiscriminate arrests by police officers are commonplace.Before the Movement, the ‘interaction’ between citizens and the police was relatively limited, but these few months, the former’s possibility of being stopped and searched and even arrested by the latter has rocketed.As such, Johnson maintains that we need to prepare mentality and knowledge to face the police. There could be more people whom we know are arrested and facing charges, which we should learn how to tackle the situation together.
Understand the inherent rights as detailed as possible
‘It’s obviously threatening to be surrounded by a bunch of officers, but then at that very moment, one has to bear in mind that they have no power over you.’
Johnson suggests that confronting the police is psychological warfare; the more knowledge protesters are with the law, the police are ‘evolving’ as well. Remember that from the onset of being stopped, the game has begun, which requires one to be calm at every moment for one’s best interest and minimize the possible legal disadvantage. He says, ‘Basically, while protesting, everyone has a number of stock phrases, such as “I have nothing to declare”, “I need a lawyer”, and “I want to file a complaint about you”. Yet, merely knowing these phrases is not enough. Many protest-goers misjudge the immense pressure on site and lose their mind easily.‘For example, the officers could be attempting to harass you by picking up a helmet from the ground and saying, “Hey! Is this yours? Hold it in your hands”. When someone told you to hold something, “I have nothing to say” would be an unlikely instant reaction.’ In this situation, one has to be well-rehearsed psychologically and avoid falling into traps.Johnson advises to self-hypnotise,‘There is no necessity for you to answer anything at all.’
These days, the police are apt to threaten demonstrators with the crime of obstructing a public officer and request them to answer questions or do something that is not obligatory. Johnson proposes that one should dismantle the psychological habit that one has to follow every command of an officer. To build confidence in doing so, a thorough understanding of the law is imperative. For instance, while facing the accusation of obstructing a public officer, sheer talking without tangible actions avoiding the officer to execute his or her duty does not constitute to the crime; hence, citizens can firmly raise doubts and ask about one’s rights, for the officers usually are more reserved in front of people who are legally knowledgeable because they themselves are afraid of being prosecuted by you.
Accompanying relatives and friends to handle the distress
When one was arrested, one would face pressure from all corners. The subsequent legal procedures could cause hiccups or changes to one’s daily life, causing immense pressure and anxiety. The unknown is usually the source of the feeling of fear and isolation. The arrested mostly do not worry about the setbacks of being sentenced at first, but more about the disruption of daily issues. ‘Sometimes the arrestees are not afraid of losing freedom in jail, but matters like “What about my insurance?” and “How should I deal with my cat?”. If you as a friend could assist them to solve these mundane problems, they would be relatively more relieved.’ These small acts of service could serve as a revitalising accompaniment; it could be just handing in an application form, but it would soothe a large portion of the pressure.
As pressure is constituted by a lot of minuscule issues, Johnson realises that rather than discussing the legal case with the arrestees, understanding their daily life needs is more important. ‘Perhaps because he or she was already assisted by a team of lawyers, or perturbed by the legal procedures,you don’t need to raise the topic of facing those problems or the uncertainty again’.Talking about mundane things, distracting their seized attention, and helping them on small matters as much as possible are practically and psychologically helpful and supportive.
‘In a movement of such enormous scale, especially with tear gas and gunshots, which are not things we would normally encounter in daily life, it’s natural to cause trauma to our lives.’ Maybe after the Movement, everyone would not be able to return to the life before,but after leaving the storm of protesting, where are we to move on? This is a question for us to seriously consider.
Johnson knows friends who turn to Buddhism before being sentenced,detach oneself from the social movement,spend more time with family or friends,or pick up a new hobby. In fact, these are not choices unique to the arrested when everyone in society is shouldering the social trauma. ‘When a person is in the eye of the storm, he or she is sure to be held responsible, to contribute, and to continue doing something so that some kind of effort is made to the Movement, which led many to lose sight of their real internal needs and desires.’
Trauma causes us to lose our original rhythm of life, values, and even worldviews but at the same time, we are transforming and conceiving new values. ‘This Movement has not ended. We continue advancing, walking on the streets. Yet, when it is gradually slowing down or even coming to an end, we could pick up a new alternative interest. I think this is one way to rediscover ourselves. You might realise that actually you are good at something else or that there are facets about you that have not been found.’Johnson concluded, ‘Rediscovering your internal desires is an inception of healing from the trauma.’