Aaron 19 years old Student
At 6 pm on November 2nd, 2019, riot police continuously fired tear gas bombs onto Percival Street in Causeway Bay. Bullet casings fell onto the road, dissolved the asphalt, and sank into the roads. One of the hand-thrown tear gas bombs fell in between first responder Aaron’s backpack and his back. Reflexively, he took it out barehanded. As a result, his back and left hand were severely burned and he required a four-hour skin grafting surgery.
Before the incident, Aaron was standing by at a tram stop, where other first responders and reporters were nearby. He hadn’t put on a gas mask as he didn’t expect the riot police would suddenly fire tear gas bombs. The tram stop was instantly covered with smoke and tear gas. After the smoke dissipated, someone found Aaron sprawled on the ground with his backside on fire. “It hurts terribly.” said Aaron. A third of his backside suffered burns.
After the surgery, Aaron needed morphine to relieve his pain, but the daily wound dressing was too painful. He had to take five to six painkillers to bear the pain. “It hurts whenever I laid down or stood up. It hurt so bad that I was hunched over all the time. The worst thing was that I couldn’t shower for ten days straight,” said Aaron. During the photoshoot, Aaron took off his shirt and his teammate Harris found that his wounds were not bandaged. “You need to bandage your wounds as the stitches are still there,” said Harris. Aaron didn’t like that idea. “If I cover them up, I can’t shower!” This reason is what made Aaron stop dressing the wounds less than a month after the incident. Aaron didn’t care much about the healing of his injuries. He thinks of his scars like trophies to show how much he has done.
Harris is a registered nurse. The two of them met in August in a Telegram group. They teamed up with two others and worked at the front line. Aaron is the youngest among the four of them. Harris was assisting other protesters when Aaron was hit by the tear gas bomb. When Harris found Aaron’s lost helmet and phone, he was worried and thought that Aaron was arrested, but then found him lying on the ground. Harris took the blame for his friend’s injury, so he wanted to take care of him more. “He fell out with his family, so we became his ‘guardians’,” said Harris.
Since then, Harris acted like Aaron’s mother, reminding him to play less and study more. Aaron came from a single-parent family and had been living with his mother alone, but they have different values. “I love to help others whenever I can, but my mother is the total opposite,” said Aaron.
Since the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement, the relationship between Aaron and his mother got worse, as she is a pro-establishment supporter. In the “one million people protests” on June 9th, Aaron served at the emergency station of St. John Ambulance. Later, he also served on his own in other protests without letting his mom know. After Aaron was injured, his mother discovered that Aaron hadn’t listened to her. She was mad at him and didn’t visit him at the hospital. “She thinks I deserved it. She would rather believe the fake news claiming that I was burnt by petrol bombs, even though the whole event was filmed by a reporter,” said Aaron. Since then, he hasn’t returned home to see his mother. He thinks his relationship with her won’t improve until the day she accepts his values. Aaron moved to Hong Kong from mainland China when he was three years old. Even though his family is pro-Beijing, he has always had his views. “I like the education system in Hong Kong. It taught me ‘real’ history and made me able to think independently,” said Aaron.
After being discharged from the hospital, Aaron moved into the school dormitory. He is a first-year student at the counseling and psychology department of Shue Yan University of Hong Kong. He is currently living on student loans but doesn’t mind being in debt as soon as he graduates. He once wanted to become a policeman and thought holding a first aid license would be beneficial to help him get accepted. Now, he has given up the thought of being a policeman. “I want to be a paramedic instead,” said Aaron. He had thought about filing civil litigation, or a complaint, against the police for his injury. “But I don’t think it’s useful. Those who were hit in the eye couldn’t even find out the identity of the officer who shot them. I was only burnt on my back. My injury is nothing in comparison to their injuries,” said Aaron. “It’s a permanent injury!” Harris corrected. “It doesn’t hurt much anymore. Mainly just itchy, tight skin, and scars,” said Aaron.
Photography：Ko Chung Ming 高仲明
Text：Choi Wai Man 蔡慧敏
Translation：Joanna Ng (Switch language on top left corner)
About the series▾
Ko Chung-ming is a local Hong Kong photographer, having an over 20-year of experience in the field, he specializes in shooting photo-stories, in-depth coverage. His work 《Wounds of Hong Kong 港傷》 entered theSony World Photography Awards 2020 – Professional Group last three.
“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”Scars and bruises may fade, but we must remember what caused them.
Ko states that the purpose of《Wounds of Hong Kong》is to record police brutality, and provided an in-depth interview story with each Hong Kong people who engaged in the movement. Amnesty International Hong Kong picked 10 stories out of 24, presenting to the public.