Author Topic: Hong Kong protesters are leaving prison as pariahs under China’s tight grip  (Read 459 times)

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Hong Kong protesters are leaving prison as pariahs under China’s tight grip
BY HSIUWEN LIU
JULY 27, 2022 UPDATED 7:19 PM PT

HONG KONG — The protester was 17 when he was jailed for possession of a Molotov cocktail. Held for nearly two years, partly in solitary confinement, he saw his world whittled to a stainless steel toilet, the glare of security cameras and harsh winter evenings that numbed his limbs.

When he was released last year, he stepped into a city that suddenly moved faster than he remembered. He had trouble hailing buses and taxis and ordering food from a menu. While his friends graduated and moved on with their lives, he was sent back to high school — a disenchanted 20-year-old rebel among teenagers busy with math problems and dating.

He doesn’t know where he fits into this new Hong Kong, and there have been times when he’s locked himself in his room and wished he was behind bars again.

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Three years after Hong Kong was engulfed in violent unrest over calls to check China’s encroaching power, the city’s jailed protesters who cast an indelible image with their yellow hard hats, gas masks and black clothing have begun trickling back into a society where many of the freedoms they fought to preserve have vanished.

Bewildered and disillusioned, they struggle to reintegrate into a city transformed by a 2-year-old national security law that’s eliminated political dissent and turned people such as Alex into pariahs for having dared to challenge Beijing’s authority. The city that once offered them hope has lost its unabashed cosmopolitan verve — much of it propelled by a globally connected young generation — under the ever expansive eye of the communist state.

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Careers and academic opportunities for former protesters have dwindled. Friends and family have fled to other countries. Plans for democracy have been scratched. For many recently released protesters, just staying in school or holding down a job is a victory, especially against the grind of the pandemic, slowing economic growth and rising inflation.

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