Hoi Kin Fung
Polytechnic University - The Remaining Specter

“Although they did not die, they were in fact dead, a piece of their soul was left forever in the canal, dark rooms, and swimming down the rope, and they will never surpass.The Hong Kong Polytechnic University was besieged for 13 days. The police surrounded it in a leak-proof manner and intimidated it with live ammunition, threatening all insiders to treat the accusation as “terrorist” to the riots. More than a thousand people are stranded here, and they are panic-stricken and resentful,someone was abseiling down from the five-story bridge, someone escape from waist level underground drains, someone hiding in the air-conditioning machine room just good enough to put a mattress, someone burst into tears and surrendered to the police. Buried here is more than a thousand young people’s hope for the society, trust in people, and innocence for themselves. To be sure, even if they escaped by chance, they all have a piece of soul also died at the Polytechnic University.” (Hoi Kin Fung)

  • Activism
  • Crisis
  • Hong Kong
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

I started my career as a citizen journalist/independent journalist in the Umbrella movement, also known as Occupying Central Movement in Hong Kong. When I watched the TV news at home and saw the police fired tear gas at the protesters – mainly students – I thought I should do something. I ran away from home with my camera and started to take photos for the whole movement. After the movement, I started to work as a photojournalist for a daily newspaper in Hong Kong.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University had been besieged by the police for two weeks. Thousands of young protesters were trapped inside the campus. Police claimed that all the people inside the campus would be charged with rioting. Hundreds of protesters were injured. Some of them attempted sewer tunnel escapes and rope climbing escapes from a bridge. The campus was totally in a mess and horror. It just looked like ruins after a war. It was hard to find the remaining protesters because they were hiding and locked themselves in some dark, small and hidden room. Therefore, I tried to take pictures of the landscapes and stuffs in the campus. I think the landscapes can also tell stories. Landscapes are just like the human portraits. They have a different appearance. You can look through the details in a landscape just like you look through the eyes of the person in a portrait, then you can discover and feel something behind it. I think you can also feel the “spector” behind the landscapes taken by me.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

“Objective documentary” was the main trend of visual journalism in the past, but I think “subjective documentary” will be more likely to become a trend of visual journalism in the future. The idea and perspective of a photographer is more important in the future. The boundary between documentary photography and contemporary art photography will merge. More kinds of forms of storytelling will be acceptable.

What were your experiences regarding restrictions and freedom of press while covering the protests?

In Hong Kong, police violence against journalists always occurs, and journalists are seen as a thorn in police flesh. An Indonesian journalist was blinded in one eye because of a rubber bullet shot by police during the Hong Kong Protest, and the police often set up blockades at demonstration sites, so that the journalists are not able to work. I remember that on the first day of the police siege and blockade of the Polytechnic University on November 16, last year, the police announced that all those who stayed at the university would be charged with riots, including journalists. They carried loaded guns to threaten all of us on the campus. All our reporters discussed whether we should stay on the rooftop of the Polytechnic University, and almost all of us decided to do so. We felt that it was our responsibility as journalists to stay on campus.

With the current Corona pandemic, the whole world is in crisis mode. In your opinion, to what extent does such a state of emergency weaken protests and democratic movements, especially in your own country?

In the early days of the pandemic, there were many demonstrations in Hong Kong demanding the closure of the border with mainland China. Among them, the strike of the doctors and nurses was a key to the government’s decision to close the border. However, police is recently arresting protesters by using the emergency law about prohibited group gatherings and bans all protests, including the Candlelight Vigil for the June 4 Massacre, annually organised in Hong Kong.

How is the situation right now? How do you look into the future?

The democratic demonstrations in Hong Kong have never really been interrupted and the protests continue until today. Even though the road ahead is unclear, China’s suppression of Hong Kong is getting bigger and bigger. I want to conclude and encourage with a sentence from a psalm by David in the Bible: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Found in Research

An interview with Hoi Kin Fung and Kwan Ling Mok in the framework of the photography exhibition “Stand with Hong Kong Journalists” at Wiener Kunstraum Nestroyhof (23.01. – 4.02.2020), conducted by Anna Sawerthal, 30 January 2020, Der Standard.

Find out more about the Hong Kong protests in the article “From an extradition bill to a political crisis: A guide to the Hong Kong protests” by Jessie Yeung, CNN, 20.12.2019.

Or watch this CNN video about “The evolution of the Hong Kong protests”.

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*Hong Kong
Hoi Kin Fung works as a photojournalist for the local Hong Kong newspaper MingPao. Since summer 2019, he has intensively documented the escalating protests against the extradition bill in Hong Kong. Along with twelve other photojournalists from Hong Kong, he will show the exhibition “Stand With Hong Kong Journalists” in European cities in 2020. In 2019, he received an honourable mention at the Andrei Stein International Press Photo Contest.

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