University student Sonia Ng is the only protester who has accused the Hong Kong police of sexual assault using her real name. Others have spoken out on condition of anonymity, alleging that they were inappropriately groped or strip-searched during arrest or detention. Ng told a press conference that a police officer hit her breasts while she was in detention after being arrested at a protest. She later told a packed university hall, “I am not the only one,” alleging that many other protesters had been subjected to different forms of sexual violence. She then removed her face mask to reveal her identity.
Here is Sonia’s story in her own words:
Before this movement, I hated Hong Kong. I used to feel like I didn’t have much in common with people here and the lack of progress in the fight for democracy made me feel like we were weak.
But after everything I’ve experienced, I am very proud to call myself a Hong Konger.
After I spoke out about my experience of sexual violence at the hands of the police, many strangers have given me strength. They sent me cards, gave me teddy bears, or made me soup or cake. Every bit of their love supports me to keep on going.
People stood up for me in other ways, too. When I was detained at Sun Uk Ling Detention Center on Aug. 31, the duty officer put me under a level two strip search, which meant I had to remove my clothes. I will always remember the kindness of a social worker who was present and argued with the police. She got them to adjust the search so I that I didn’t have to strip. It showed me the importance of asserting yourself and making sure that people around you — vulnerable people, and people who are being arrested — know their rights.
I have also faced a backlash for speaking out. People have said things about me like “She is promiscuous,” or they’ve tried to smear me by saying that I provide sex for money. I’ve had people ask things like “how much do you charge a night?”
Hong Kong is our home, and we have to stand up bravely regardless of our gender.Sonia Ng
Others have questioned whether I’m telling the truth, and they’ve said things about my family background and my mental health. People don’t want to acknowledge the issues I raised — they’d rather take out the person who raises them.
In the first few days after I spoke out, I thought about running away. But I decided to face this head on — a lifetime of running away means a lifetime of not breaking the cycle.
I also know that other people have experienced far worse. I was not physically beaten up by the police, and I did not lose an eye or a tooth. Compared with the injuries others have suffered, mine were nothing. If these people can find such a strong will to live, I can as well.
Some people are suggesting that female protesters shouldn’t go to the front line because of the risk of being sexually assaulted by the police. This decision is up to individuals, but I wouldn’t advise women against going to the front. The protests need people.
We all know that Hong Kong is our home, and we have to stand up bravely regardless of our gender.
Women’s groups in Hong Kong are working very hard advocating for women’s rights. A group called Rainlily is doing a great job getting the message out that women don’t need to feel timid about speaking out about sexual violence and should not pay attention remarks that are shaming. They’re also showing people where they can go to get professional support.
After this movement, you can see there is an enormous change that is taking place in our society. It’s really challenging the negative perceptions that people have about Hong Kong.
When they say Hong Kongers only care about money — look at all the people who are donating. When they say Hong Kongers do not care about others — look how they shed tears for a stranger who has died. When they say Hong Kongers kowtow to whoever holds power — look how people are getting together to strike.
It is true that for Hong Kong to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party is like throwing straws into the wind. But this is our home and we must put up a good fight to the end. After this movement, I truly feel Hong Kong is my home. I love this place and I love the people here even more. I still believe there can be a change. As long as there is still a movement, as long as this fire remains in our hearts, we still have a chance.
Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into the use of force by Hong Kong police.
This piece was published by The Lily