I Am Matthew Rodier, photographer and journalist who spent 103 days covering the Hong Kong protests. AMA!
Hello Reddit! This is Matthew Rodier, an independent photographer and journalist based in Washington D.C. I spent 103 days covering the Hong Kong protests last year, photographing as many events as possible.
Currently, I have been covering the George Floyd and anti-police brutality protests in Washington D.C. You can find my work on [Twitter.]( https://twitter.com/mattrodierphot1)
I recently released an electronic photobook featuring 144 exclusive photos from the 103 days I was in Hong Kong. I want the eBook to be as accessible to everyone as possible so the world can see the unfiltered events of the protests. You can purchase the eBook through Apple https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1516539106 or [Kindle] https://www.amazon.com/When-Go-Dreaming-Matthew-Rodier-ebook/dp/B089CGMR5X for only $9.99. You can see more of my work on my website https://www.matthewrodierphotography.com
Hong Kong is projected to dramatically change under the proposed National Security Law from the National People's Congress of China and the United States is currently undergoing the largest social uprising in the past sixty years. On that note, AMA! I will be answering questions as long as questions are being asked.
edit: I'd just like to point out that there is no apple book store in HK, so if you would like to buy the book there head to the amazon link.
Edit 2: I'm logging off because I need to sleep now but I'll be back on tomorrow to answer questions at some point as long as they are not blatant propaganda or attempts to impugn my character or accuse me of bias without regard to the truth.
Many of them remain hopeful but there is a lot of sadness and a general sense of dread for the future from what I can tell from talking to my friends. They hope it won't get too bad but feel that it will and just don't know when that will come.
What are the reactions among protestors regarding Boris Johnson offering an easier track to UK citizenship?
I am not currently in Hong Kong. I arrived there the first time on August 28th and left for the last trip home on December 16th. Haven't had the ability to speak with Hong Kong protesters so all I know about recent events there is from what I hear from journalist friends or people I know in a non-work capacity, such as people I befriended or dated during my time there.
How do the protests in US, especially in DC compare or contrast to the protests you covered in Hong Kong?
The protests in the US have been more calm on average for one thing, although that may change. In Hong Kong towards the end of 2019 when I was there, late August to about Christmas, it had already gotten to the point where you knew you were getting tear gassed and bad and it was just a matter of are they bringing in the water cannons and the APC's. Also the protesters in HK often unleashed heavy amounts of molotov cocktails at police when the protesters were trying to retreat. That may have happened here but hasn't been a widespread tactic to my knowledge.
Was there issues with looting in Hong Kong?
I didn't see any looting personally in Hong Kong. I was present overnight at Polytechnic University and someone broke into the 7-11 but when there are hundreds of people in an area where they can't get out and they are running low on water breaking into a store to get some doesn't qualify in my opinion. All the stores they would break into in HK it seemed to be just to damage the owners and destroy the place, they weren't looking for anything of value to take. I was inside a Xaomi store in Mong Kok for instance when it was on fire. They sell cell phones there but no one wanted a phone, they just wanted to smash and burn the place. Their targets were almost always related to CCP, Fujian Triads, or the Maxim Corporation for different reasons. One time they vandalized a bank by mistake bc they thought it was connected to the CCP but they publicly apologized after learning they were wrong.
Thank you for reporting what was happening during last few months, from a local hongkonger.
It's not an easy job but it's the only one for me. Hong Kongers, to their credit, were usually very kind and appreciative of the journalists working there.
What’s the average age you could estimate for the HK protests? Did you witness anyone older than 50 protesting?
Yeah there is a pic in the book of a guy that's about 70 maybe protesting in a wheelchair. Not sure of the average age bc one of the protests I photographed there were 800k people there but if I had to guess the average age of a frontline protester I'd say it is young, maybe 21-22.
Thank you for reporting the protests here in Hong Kong.
To point out:
Maxim Corporation was targeted because of Annie Wu Suk-ching, the daughter of the founder of Maxim's catering. She publicly claimed that the protesters are rioters and these young protesters were brainwashed.
Starbucks was also targeted because of that, since apparently, the Maxim's Corporation was in charge of the operation here in Hong Kong.
Maxim only owns 11% of Starbucks in Hong Kong I believe but the rest of that is correct. Thank you for helping me explain the motivations of the protesters, I'm juggling a lot of questions at once.
Do you feel that police response/tactics have changed/evolved through your 103 days covering the HK protests?
Yes. I think that there was an escalation of police violence over the time I was there, and in turn some of the protesters became more violent. There is only so many months people will show up and march and get tear gassed before they start throwing rocks, then police started tear gassing people before the approved legal protests had even ended so at a certain point I think a lot of people came to question whether peaceful protests were even possible. There was graffiti all over Hong Kong that said something to the effect of: "it was you who taught me that peaceful protests do nothing." Wish I could remember the exact phrasing off the top of my head but I am on painkillers due to my injuries on Sunday night.
"it was you who taught me that peaceful protests do nothing."
How much of the communication is in English vs. Cantonese / Chinese? English is still widely spoken in HK, but I'd assume they mostly would have Chinese graffiti and speak to each-other in Cantonese.
Commucation verbally is mostly non-English amongst the protesters although a great deal of them speak perfect English. And I think you would be surprised how much of the graffiti is in English.
I'd just like to point out that there is no apple book store in HK, so if you would like to buy the book there head to the amazon link. Please upvote this so everyone can see it.
What motivated you to do such a dangerous job in HongKong?
When I was a kid I would watch the news and there would be people doing video of conflict zones, and right in there with fires and natural disasters and people shooting would be a guy with a still camera. I always had a lot of respect for those people because that's a tough spot to be in.
Any crazy stories-- whether from the protestors or police/military, that you can relay when you were covering the protests in the US?
On Sunday night covering a protest that turned into a riot in DC I was surrounded by a few angry protesters and confronted, they were accusing me of being an undercover cop. While explaining that I am a journalist I was struck from the right. Didn't see who or what hit me, but it broke my jaw in 4-5 places on my right side and once on the left. Spent three nights in the hospital after and had to have my jaw reconstructed with three titanium plates. I am home just trying to heal now, no field work for a few weeks at least.
aw man, sorry to hear. all thecrap in Hong Kong to come back home and get that? damn
Yeah it was tough. I still flash back to the moment I was hit sometimes when I am trying to sleep. It's not easy but I will get through it. I am a strong minded person.
FWIW, suffering from flashbacks or PTSD doesn't mean you're weak. It can happen to anybody, it's just a natural bodily response to trauma after a certain point. Please seek treatment if it continues.
I don't see it as weakness and I apologize if I came off that way. I just meant that I believe I can overcome it in time.
Have you directly faced any attempts at oppression of any sort from the Hong Kong or Chinese governments?
Yes. I was pepper sprayed in the face by a Hong Kong police officer for taking pictures of a brutal arrest of a young man, and we were tear gassed so much that one Monday after a long weekend of protests I was rushed to the hospital because I could/t breathe. They also shot rubber bullets and me and a bunch other journalists in Mong Kok one night and one missed right past my head. My buddy grabbed me and pulled me down behind a road barrier to take cover. It was so close I didn't even see it go by. There is a great deal of oppression against journalists in Hong Kong. I have never been to mainland China.
Do you have any plans to publish a physical version of your book?
Yes. Will be available in the next month, six weeks at the latest.
Which 3m filters work best against the tear gas?
Not sure the model number but they are rectangular and bright pink. Went through a lot of them in Hong Kong.
I feel like the coverage is incredibly fair due to the ability to watch so many different live streams and such as opposed to just seeing what the media wants us to see.
Do you think that's accurate or am I being nieve?
I think that the more livestreams there are the more unfiltered information a person has access to, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you don't know what you are seeing it can be easy to misinterpret things, and also live streamers often do commentary and may not have the same commitment to objectivity as most journalists have.
Cool, thanks. I'm really interested in this but I dont even know what to ask. I, and I'm sure a lot of others, would love to hear some of your own thoughts.
I guess my only other question would be... How are the two countries protests similar and dissimilar?
They are similar in the way that you see a lot of hurt and anguish in the faces of the protesters along with the anger. It's not just rage, it's a feeling that there is injustice and it's not being addressed. It takes a lot of frustration for people to take to the streets in any country if they know they are encountering a great deal of police resistance. They are different in a whole lot of ways because protests are group actions and those actions are influenced by cultures and nationality plays a part in that I believe.
What was one of the most impactful moments that you witnessed? For both Hong Kong and DC
Hong Kong I had a young man walk up to me during the Save Poly U protests and he asked me if I needed a coffee as he had a case of cold nescafe cans. I said yes and asked if I could take two because I had been up all night. He said yes and thanked me for my work, was incredibly polite and I thought that young man is such a nice guy. When he went to walk away I realized the box in his other hand had about 30 molotov cocktails in it. That's just how it was a lot of the time I was there, incredibly polite young people who sometimes throw molotov cocktails at the police. Might be hard to picture if you never saw it but it happened to me all the time.
DC I watched a young man yelling at a police officer and he spoke about police targeting black people and he said to the white officer " when I was 12 my parents taught me that I needed to not a act a certain way around police or I could be killed. Will you ever have to have that conversation with your 12 year old son?" That was tough to witness.
In your experience covering the protests, did you see anything the protestors were doing that you believed justified the use of force we saw on the pictures, videos and news? Thanks!
It's not for me to pass judgment on what level of force is appropriate. There are certain things, like having four officers throw a small teenager to the ground , that seem totally unecessary. There are other times, like when there are multiple molotov cocktials flying, where it would seem some response is certainly necessary but these are not my calls to make. I'm there to report what happens not make value judgments.
Thank you Matthew, I really appreciate your response, I understand it's not your job to pass judgement, the intent of my question was more oriented towards getting a bigger picture of what happened there.
It has been a year of protests in Hong Kong, and I could write a 200 page book on that year. Sorry trying to address as many questions as possible. There are a number of different long from articles you can check out on the Hong Kong protests that would get you up to speed.
How do you and your colleagues deal with feelings of frustration or anger towards the police when you're being deliberately targeted?
Can only speak for myself but just try to remain as professional as possible. It isn't my place to confront the police even if they target me, although if they are targeting journalists it is my place to make sure the world knows about that. I usually just deal with it as best as I could can and then commiserate among each other after, you'll hear a lot of interesting stories at a "happy hour" of journalists following a night of reporting on a protest or a conflict.
In your opinion, what is the biggest threat to democracy? Do you think that the concept of a free press is mostly BS since a handful of oligarchs own almost all media outlets?
Biggest threat to democracy is probably disinformation and the weaponization of social media by extremists or outside actors. And I too worry about the corporatization of media but free press will always exist as long as people like me are alive, and there are a great deal of people like me in the world. I'll show up with a camera or a pen and do my best to tell the absolute truth whether or not I get paid for it. I will do this as long as my body functions.
And I too worry about the corporatization of media
What are your thoughts on the responsibility of social media companies to preserve free speech? It seems scarily possible that these companies can control the narratives presented on their sites and easily influence public opinion
They have no responsibility to preserve free speech as they are private platforms. I think they do have a responsibility to not allow for the dissemination of violent extremism on their platforms as that is similar to yelling fire in a crowded theater, which is a legal limit on free speech because it endangers large groups of people.
what is the biggest misconception about the Hong Kong protests?
There are two really large ones that I'll address here: (1) that it's solely a movement of young people. I have a photo in the book that is 800k people in the street, and 2 milion came out one day before I got there. That is more than 25 percent of HK's population, and they are all ages. And (2) that the US is involved at all. I studied our govt's policies for many years and while we have certainly instituted regime change in certain places there is not a shred of evidence that I could find that would suggest the US is involved in any way in the Hong Kong protests. I think some people just have a hard time understanding how badly a lot of Hong Kongers want HK to remain HK for as long as possible, even if that is only till 2047.
What do you think of the disproportionate coverage of the HK protest, especially on Reddit, in 2019 compared to other protests in other countries like India who had far more casualties?
I think that Reddit is geared towards people who use the platform the most through the upvote system. I am not sure what the popularity of reddit is in India. Also Reddit is a US based company and the HK protests got a lot more coverage than the Indian protests so that will reflect on Reddit users.
How do you feel about Lebron James making tweets saying “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” or " our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter" then saying fuck all about anything going on in Hong Kong because he has significant financial interests over there?
I was disappointed as a lifelong basketball fan to see Lebron's comments. he called the Houston Rocket's GM's comments ignorant and uninformed I believe, when in my opinion it was he who was speaking in an ignorant manner. The Rockets GM went to MIT I think as well, so the chances that he would not be informed on world affairs are small as compared to a guy who chose to play basketball more than go to school from an extremely early age.
Ever get arrested or told to delete photos and videos?
No. I have had HK police threaten to arrest me more times than I could count, one most notable time was when they told everyone to leave HK Polytechnic University, journalists and medics included, before 10PM or get arrested. There was no way I was going to do that and I stayed there awake and shooting till about 11AM the next day.
Do you ever feel you're biased in what or who your photograph?
Would you mind protestors using your photos for their "cause" or similar in would you mind the state making propaganda out of any of your photos?
I think anyone can have biases but I work very hard to not let bias creep into my work. Some things are human nature, if there is a giant fire you'll probably be more drawn to it and more likely to take a picture than you would if someone was reading a poem. Part of that I believe is evolutionary instincts. I would mind if anyone used my work without my permission but I am not naive enough to think that it hasn't happened. If a state used my photos for propaganda I would be much more upset than someone using them for a social movement for a number of reasons.
Hi Matthew. First off, thanks for shining a light on the situation in HK in the face of danger.
During your time there, did you notice any divide between rioters and peaceful protestors? Although it appeared that most Hkers were peaceful, there were many depictions on the news where private/public property were destroyed, protestors using molotovs and bows, and even an elderly street cleaner dying from a rock allegedly thrown from a protestor. Were most protestors okay with these actions as a perfectly reasonable response to being fed up with government oppression or did this cause a rift between them?
Also, in your experience, is it true that the majority of protestors were young adults?
I'd say there was a bigger divide in the beginning but the police becoming increasingly more violent made the nonviolent protesters increasingly accept, if not actively support, the more violent actions. The elderly man who died by a rock being thrown walked into a situation where people were throwing rocks back and forth. I don't believe he was targeted at all and I am unsure if there is even proof as to which side threw the rock. The public and private property destroyed by the HK protesters was usually carefully selected for a specific reason so that limited the backlash from the public. There is a KFC in Mong Kog where I ate fried chicken during some incredibly intense nights back when I still ate meat. It was never targeted because no one had a problem with KFC.
As far as the protesters in Hong Kong being young adults the frontliners were mostly young adults but ther protesters are of all ages. There are pictures in my book of children protesting, an old man in a wheelchair, a guy with his dog. There is also a pic of 800k people in the street on Hennessy Road protesting. Those were certainly not all young people.
Out of all the photos you’ve taken while there which photo do you think summarizes the situation best?
The cover of my book. Police officers stationed inside the Central Govt Complex in Hong Kong were shooting heavy amounts of tear gas at the protesters and a young man just ran up to the smoking canister, picked it up, and threw it back over the fence at them. To me a lot of what the Hong Kong protests have been about is defiance to police brutality and government overreach.
How do you see Chinese/British culture playing a role vs. American culture here with the two protest movements?
I think Americans are great people mostly but are on average more physically aggressive and violent in general. You don't ever really see bar fights in Hong Kong and that is not totally uncommon in US cities. That is a cultural thing. I do not believe what happened to me Sunday night would happen in Hong Kong because there was more of an appreciation for the work that journalists do in Hong Kong. Some US protesters seem to think that I need permission to take pictures in a public place which is not how the first amendment works. They would also ask you to blur out faces on a live feed, which is impossible. One thing people in the US need to realize is if the journalists go home it is a lot easier to brutalize people. We, as journalists, often operate as a check on those in power so it is good to have us around when police are charging. Officers in any country seem more reluctant to use excessive force if I have a camera right in their face.
Absolutely. It’s the only way to have accurate information. I think it’s horrible that you were attacked so badly. Don’t they know that honorable journalism is the checks and balances for world events...
I don't know what they were thinking but I am willing to accept that journalism can be dangerous. I just didn't expect something like that to happen in the US, and I don't like becoming part of the story but when journalists are being attacked that's a story that needs to be told.
lol man if you leave the ritzy white people places you see bar fights in hk
I drank in every seedy bar I could find on my days off and didn't see any bar fights but I was only there for 3.5 months. I wasn't just in gweilo places in Wan Chai or drinking with the tourists in LKF either.
Hi Matt thank you for doing an AMA! I share your sentiment on the respect for the guys in the middle of the disasters and crisis with cameras reporting and have often wondered how to get into this kind of career. What advice would you give someone interested in this line of work?
I just bought a camera, spent a few weeks learning how to use it and then flew to Hong Kong. I would not recommend you do that though. Journalism school seems valuable but not always necessary. I would definitely take more time to learn your tools better. I kinda learned on the fly in Hong Kong and it was difficult at times. Also if you are going to do conflict journalism you should take hostile territory training which teaches you how to remain as safe as possible during these types of events. I haven't done it yet but will be doing it before my next overseas trip.
I know it's a hard question to answer, but if you had to predict the future of HK and maybe even China in terms of civil rights, what do you think the road map might look like?
You were wrong it's not hard to answer this question, it's impossible. You literally asked me how I would predict the futute. I cannot predict the future.
Were you ever threatened after photographing someone? And if so, how do you handle it?
I've been threatened a number of times. I just try to stay as professional as possible and deescalate the situation.
The method of utilizing a traffic cone to extinguish tear gas that has been used in the US that you are describing was actually adapted from the Hong Kong protests to the best of my knowledge.
Small question do give you a break: Do you like The Beatles?
Yeah love the Beatles my Mom used to play them when I was a kid and still enjoy them but I became more of as Stones guy as I got older, they're just more raw.
Yeah I understand. They're more Rock N Roll than The Beatles ever were. Welp, thank you for what you've done!
Thank you for the much needed softball question. Both great bands unquestionably and both groups of individuals who were better at making music than I'll ever be at anything.
The U.S., Britain and other western democracies sharply criticized police crackdowns on anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year. With what we're seeing in the US, can you compare how you were treated by the authorities in each?
I have been mistreated by police in both places. The mistreatment occurred less in the US protests but I covered them for much less time and can't cover them right now because I was seriously injured doing so and need to recover from that injury.
How did you stay safe, did you use a telephoto lens or got close?
24-120mm lens or 50mm fixed mostly. On me getting close: "If your pictures aren't good enough you aren't close enough." -Robert Capa
Did you keep in contact with any HK protestors? If so, what do they think of the current situation in the US?
I do not keep in touch with any protesters. I have plenty of friends in Hong Kong but they are all either journalists or people I met outside of my work. I would talk to protesters there to get info but as soon as that was over I would sever ties for their safety, as it is very important for a journalist to protect their sources. My friends in Hong Kong are generally supportive of the struggle for civil rights in the US and everywhere else in the world.
The British government has promised that they will give everyone qualified for a British Overseas Passport the right to stay and work in the UK with a pathway to citizenship.
Do you think this will have a big impact?
Limited impact because people on the front lines a lot of them were born after 1997 and are therefore not BNO holders.
How do you protect yourself different from HK to DC? Both physical and technological
In Hong Kong I would go out with goggles, half face 3M mask with the pink filters, I think my mask was a 6300 and a rock climbing helmet which a lot of journalists call a bump helmet. DC I did not wear really any protection and I paid a high price for that mistake. not sure what you mean by technological protection you'd have to specify and even then I probably wouldn't answer bc discussing security measures just exposes potential vulnerabilities.
What are, in your opinion, some of the most interesting strategies that are being used in HK? I have seen that HK protesters connect each-other using apps like Telegram, is there something similar that journalists/independent media use to be informed of everything going on, sort of like a union of all journalists currently reporting in HK?
Thank you for spending your precious and valuable time with us and answering so many of our questions (•‿•)
Interesting strategies? The "yellow economic circle" is very interesting to me, where Hong Kongers will actively support businesses that are pro-protest and refuse to frequent businesses who are against the protests. Using spending power to influence social movements is highly interesting to me because I am a policy nerd. Journalists have their own ways of communicating which I won't address here so as not to put them or their sources in jeopardy.
Can you talk about how protestors purchased and distributed protective equipment like hardhats, eye protection, and gloves, without revealing too much about their logistics? I'm trying to figure out how to get protestors in my city better protection but haven't been successful in the avenues I've tried. Thanks for doing this AMA!
I wouldn't be comfortable discussing this publicly because they are buying that gear to protect themselves. It's not offensive weapons. I don't want to potentially deny someone the ability to buy something that will prevent them from getting tear gassed or pepper sprayed., especially since so many of them are peaceful protesters buying gear to safely express their views and not get hurt.
Do Hong Kong protestors also loot their own stores and burn down their own businesses? Or is that strictly an American thing?
The Hong Kong protesters almost exclusively target stores affiliated with the Chinese govt, the Fujian Triads who attacked them and civilian bystanders, or stores owned by people who spoke out heavily against their movement. Think people loot in most parts of the world during times of civil unrest though.
What seems to be the PLA's general stratergy to de escalate a protest? Though we know many injustices have taken place within the current and previous HK protests, in your opinion, does the PLA represent the CCP's authoritive stance on freedome of expression, or is there some hope? Edit: im probably using PLA wrong here, should be saying police. Please correct me if so
I can't speak for the Chinese military. The Hong Kong police, which reportedly had been bolstered by the PAP, which is paramilitary police from mainland China, seemed unconcerned with deescalation. They would just raise different warning flags and then the tear gas canisters would start to fly. Sometimes they would skip the warning flags and just show up and fire. Other times they would fire tear gas while the door to the police van closed. Often it seemed punitive and not tactical.
what was the most heartbreaking scene or moment you witnessed during the HK protests?
There was a young man and a young woman who were waiting to be arrested during save poly U protests, police had them on the side of the road and he was stoic but she was emotional. I was told by a nearby local journo that she was pleading with police, he just said nothing. It seemed to me that they were the type of young people who had never been in trouble before and while he accepted his fate he didn't look happy and her I can still hear her wailing to the police. When someone gets arrested for the first time there is a time when they realize they are not going home that day and that is heartbreaking to watch when it's a young person. That was probably it. Few other situations where people got tackled hard by police and they were not physically that large and you see them dragged away and I would worry about head injuries. I never get to follow up with these people so it is rough. I often wonder how things turned out and if they are okay now.
How do you think they’ll end? With change? With a show of force?
The Chinese government just approved a law that allows them to establish a secret police in Hong Kong, so how will it end? Not well for the Hong Kong people in my opinion.
As far as rioting tactics go in HK have you seen protesters weaponizing consumer level drones to counter police tactics? Say, mounting lasers onto drones (or something to that extent) as counter measures.
You should make science fiction cartoons for a living.
What is your work schedule like as an independent journalist? How do you get tips and leads on burgeoning stories? Do you hire camera crews or just self record?
Mad respect for you. Stay safe, be well, rock on.
Thank you for the respect, always nice to hear that. I try to stay as busy as possible which is alright with me because I love my work. I stay on top of what I might want to cover and cover anything in the DC area in the meantime or anything that happens in Richmond, VA for instance bc I can drive there. Similarly I covered the pandemic and its repsonses in NYC bc I could drive there. Try to work on as many stories as I can domestically while planning international work. Should have another international trip coming up soon actually.
Hi Matthew! Thanks for the AMA. Big thank you for doing this! This is exactly what I'm planning to have a career in, as in photojournalism at conflict areas, I'm at the beginning of my 20's so plenty of time to plan, hopefully soon getting into journalism school but I'm a big fan of the way you just decided to hop right in and start doing it.
Because of the way you started, I'm definitely curious, how did you fund yourself and got into the business side of journalism? As I understood, you just flew in HK and started photographing, living off of your savings I presume. Have you sold any of your photos, and actually started making living out of this too? If so, did you just approach every media you can imagine and get your photos in there? Also, did you have any sort of actual accreditations, that perhaps let you through some gates not open for people otherwise?
This new book clearly seems to be doing well at least. I'll wait until the physical copy, but great work from what I can see!
I'd honestly rather not discuss my finances as that is a personal matter. I will say that I worked very hard in my life prior to journalism so I had a cushion coming in. I also live cheap. I don't have a car and my camera gear is the only thing in the world I own that costs more than 100 dollars (besides my tv which I bought 5 years ago) but I have thousands of dollars in camera gear. My accreditation is with a national association of press photographers called the NPPA, which anyone can join as long as they are willing to abide by rules that govern work as a journalist that they agree to. I now shoot for a couple freelance agencies out of NY but again am unwilling to discuss what I get paid. Get some good shots, make a website, apply to agencies as a freelancer would be my advice. The main advantage I have in journalism is that I studied govt policy in undergrad and have a law degree so I can understand a lot of what goes on with governments and movements probably better than the average individual. As far as waiting for the hard cover I'd recommend you buy the ebook as it has a lot more pics in it and the physical book will be at least 225 USD and the ebook is 10.
How were you treated by both sides of the protests in HK compared to DC and how do you feel about the t social media that are becoming more and more important information sources?
Social media can be manipulated by things like microtargeting which everyone should research so it makes the dissemination of disinformation more dangerous bc you can cater that disinformation to specific individuals. I was generally treated well by the Hong Kong protesters and the US protesters but I'd be lying if I said the treatment wasn't better in Hong Kong. A protester broke my jaw in 6 places in the US on Sunday and could have killed me and the day before someone claimed to me that press pics get people killed and ripped my press pass off my neck and threw it into the crowd. More animosity towards the press by the American protesters, although in all fairness most of the US protesters have been very polite.
How did you get started in independent journalism?
I bought a camera and learned how to use it. Then I bought a ticket to Hong Kong.
How do you report on these protests and make sure you protect the identity of people protesting?
I don't as that is not my responsibility. Protesting is not illegal not even in Hong Kong and if you are doing something other than protesting such as committing a crime in public you should cover your face or accept that there might be consequences. That being said I try to respect people's privacy if they ask to not have their picture taken. But I am an extreme believer in the rights of the press so I am not going to cater to anyone's wishes that go against them. People need to see what goes on in the world and I provide that ability. I am not pro-protester or pro-police, I am an unbiased observer of what occurs. I might have opinions on what I record but I am not working for either group. There are things I will do such as ask someone involved in a peaceful protest if I can take their picture but that's a courtesy not a necessity or something that I owe them, and that's in certain circumstances.
What are some of the most unforgettable encounters when you were in Hong Kong?
One of my friends came back from the UK to HK and he got back the day of the Save Poly U protests after being gone about a month. I had been awake for about 30 hours at that point so when I found out he was there I ran down a street that was being riddled with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters to give him a hug. That was a pretty unforgettable encounter for me.
Ive hear alot of conspiracy theorists stating that there has been protestors that had been “hired”. How true is this?
There is absolutely no evidence of this theory. A lot of people just love a good conspiracy.
Do you apply for a press badge to differentiate yourself from the protestors so they don't end up arresting you or hurting you? Or you take the risk of being with everyone.
I would wear a NPPA pass which is an organization of visual journalists based in the US but I would move freely amongst the protesters and nver felt unsafe. The protesters were very nice to photographers and press in Hong Kong so there wasn't really a risk from them.
Thank you for your answer and doing this!
No problem glad to talk about my work.
What is the role you feel Americans (or the world community as a whole) should take in the Hong Kong protests if any? Should other countries get involved at all?
I am not qualified or in the right position to pontificate on this as it is my job to report events and not advocate for policy. I'm a journalist not a politician or activist.
Is there a photography textbook (or similar source) that you found helpful back when you were learning?
I never learned from a textbook. I kinda just dived right into this. I was an experienced traveler, knew about world affairs, am highly adventurous and am an autodidact. So I bought a camera and my buddy who is a photographer showed me how to use it and then I bought a plane ticket to Hong Kong about 2-3 weeks later.
What's actually not what the mainstream media is saying about this and what're they saying spot on accurate ?
I don't know what you mean by mainstream media. There is so much media in America that classifying it like that makes no sense to me. I'd need specific outlets and their claims to be mentioned to respond effectively.
From your own opinion, do you believe that the situation in HK will take a turn for the worse given how the whole world is fixated on the US for now? Do you think any western nation will act to protect HK from China if China decides to make a move now?
I think that Coronavirus gave them cover to move on HK activists and they did with mass arrests. The situation in the US actually may not help the Chinese move on Hong Kong because the current US administration needs a scapegoat and a distraction so ratcheting up the newest cold war on the horizon could actually be good for them. More things to destract people from what is going on in America.
How should the vandalism be handled? How would you rate HKPF's response to the uproars? Would you say that the violence, sabotage and illegalities within the movement has hurt it, and accordingly resulted in less coverage and support from the West?
Loaded question so I'm gonna move on. Your bias is showing.
What makes a for a good photo op during Protest? wht do you look for? from a creative perspective that is.
There really isn't a specific thing I could point to but you know it when you see it if you shoot enough protests. Kids with signs chanting generally make pretty striking images, people doing anything backlit by a raging fire usually also produces moving imagery. I am not looking for anything tbh, I take thousands of photos of things I think might potentially be worthwhile for the world to see and them sort through them in the editing process.
Do you feel like any real change will happen there?
I think real change will happen but not in a way that is beneficial for the people of Hong Kong. it seems China is just following the standard playbook of any authoritarian state: call anyone that dissents a terrorist and then break the movement any way you can without regard for people's safety or dignity. The National Security Law that was proposed by Beijing is particularly worrisome.
It says you want the ebook to be accessible to as many people as possible yet you are charging a fee for it? Come on dude.
Yeah that's why it costs 10 dollars and not 25 or 50.
What are your thoughts on HK protestors using violence and intimidation against those that didn’t have the same opinion?
And how was that reflected in your journalism and coverage?
This seems like what we would call in law school a leading question. If you want to ask someone a question in good faith and have them respond you should leave out the assumptions.
Britain is a country of Skyfall. Hong Kong was a British colony.
The protesters wrote "Caged birds think flying is an illness." Other protesters said "I have crossed the threshold. My house is in order. I will not suicide." Inherently those are Skyfall issues.
Do you have any comments on Skyfall as revolution in Hong Kong?
I don't know what you are referring to when you say skyfall, but I know a lot of Hong Kong protesters were afraid of being killed in police custody and having it be framed as suicide. I don't have any proof whatsoever that that ever happened but many would yell out "I will not hurt myself" or something to that effect when being arrested so the fear of it happening was certainly real.
What's the mood among the people of Hong Kong? Are they hopeful? Resigned to their fate? Looking to emigrate?
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