Ah Fai’s Story of Guilt
Text / Sandy
Amidst the pandemic, we interviewed protestors, listened to their stories, and asked about why they persisted to fight for freedom. Most of them replied, ‘Because of guilt’.
Guilt is self-blame, regret, indebtedness, and lament. Stepping forward in the summer of 2019, many were merely onlookers of the Umbrella Revolution without active participation but screw up the courage to march on the streets in this second chance.
Compensation, nonetheless, is a type of response in which one discovers one’s mental needs, although the process of discovery is tough. The story of Ah Fai is exactly about this kind of hardship; perhaps growing up does hurt.
Ah Fai is a videographer. Since 2014, he has been avidly documenting events with his camera. It is a hobby and a habit. On 6 September 2019, while a million of protestors marched on the street, he took videos as per usual and edited them to be uploaded on Facebook. Out of the blue, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) contacted him to borrow his work as promotional material to encourage people to stand up and protest. ‘I didn’t accept the request immediately because I was afraid of being doxed and affecting my family’s jobs.
After a few hours of struggle, he finally said yes, but the video was not aired in the end. It turned out that on the day before the march, Mr. Leung immolated himself as the ultimate protest and CHRF decided to use his story instead. At that particular moment, Ah Fai was overwhelmed with mixed feelings. He described it as ‘the most guilty moment over these few months’.
‘How should I put it? The death of Mr. Leung ( Ling-kit) is definitely saddening, but I felt utterly relieved.’ This kind of contradiction brought about the immense feeling of guilt out of him. ‘Perhaps Mr. Leung helped me dodge a bullet’. He unwillingly made this statement.
Yet, today, he has already thrown caution to the winds, geared up with a yellow vest, and took up the responsibility to be a civic reporter so as to bring his images to light. ‘I just deeply believe that with one more lens, there will be one more piece of truth.’ In July, after a series of struggle, he decided to apply to a number of news media to be a half-time journalist. There was no reply at first. Only a while later did a small-scale media accepted his application. He, as a reporter, thus recorded numerous incidents, including those in the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In the coverage, he saw through the rationale of the frontline protestors charging at the police officers and the injustice behind the government expropriating residential buildings as quarantine camps during the pandemic.
‘I would naturally remember extravagant scenes but on site, I would be able to observe many minute details, which prompted me to reflect a lot.’ He shared one episode in the clash in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. ‘That was after 11 December. The protestors were arguing whether to build a roadblock. I heard from a briefing made by some frontline protestors that if the roadblock had been dismantled, they would have let it be. The reason behind was from the frontline’s reflection of their past experience in demolishing other roadblocks.’ He was surprised by the depth of the thought processes of the protestors.
He also mentioned the government’s expropriation of the Fotan Chun Yeung Estate as quarantine camp. ‘Perhaps little people are aware but I interviewed the affected inhabitants and found that many of them are tenants of subdivided flats with limited income waiting to be relocated to their proper homes. It was totally unexpected to them. I felt furious knowing about this!’ Only through being a reporter did he recognize the flesh and blood behind his lenses.
‘I changed a lot. I used to be bad at speaking and reluctant to start a conversation, but now, I proactively ask for interviews. I want to document this period and more people’s voices.’
He also pointed out a more significant transformation, ‘It used to be private records, but now it’s to be a witness to history.’
This, to Ah Fai, is a story of maturation out of the feeling of guilt.