Interview with Jared Stone, one of the photojournalists in the video of Hong Kong police throwing tear gas grenade at press members

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The protests in Hong Kong

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Jared Stone is an Australian photojournalist and fully trained emergency nurse from Melbourne.

From August 30, he is in Hong Kong to document the Hong Kong protests.

A few days ago he was a witness and protagonist of a police attack on members of the press.

Official site | Instagram

Related interviews: Oliver Chang, author of “The Goddess of Democracy”; Badiucao, political cartoonist, and rights activist; Isaac Cheng, vice-chairman of Demosistō

How did you start your career as a photojournalist?

I was originally a street photographer in my home town of Melbourne, releasing Zines, exhibiting at various parties and also doing some night club photography.

I found the transition to photojournalism to be the next step and a new challenge in my photography.

What drove you to Hong Kong to follow the protests? How long have you been there?

I have been following the protests in Hong Kong very keenly since the umbrella revolution in 2014, having visited Hong Kong before, I really enjoy Hong Kong’s bustling city life.

When I learned of the never before seen tactics being used by the protesters, I found them to be fresh, innovative and inspiring.

I had planned a road trip around Australia but decided to fly to Hong Kong to witness and document the Hong Kong peoples struggle for democracy.

I have been in Hong Kong since the 30th of August.

What happened in the infamous video where you were assaulted?

I had been taking photos of the peaceful march to the US consulate when word got around that peaceful protesters were being arrested at Central station and it had been closed down.

I followed the protesters walking to the next metro station, however, Police had arrived there also and were searching people. We continued on to the next metro station and I arrived in Causeway Bay to find tear gas had been fired. I applied my gas mask, helmet, and goggles and headed over to take photos.

Protesters were extinguishing the gas and one warned me it had been fired from an MTR exit.

I ventured over to investigate, by this time most protesters had retreated.

All of a sudden, with no warning, I saw movement from the exit and a grenade was thrown, I spun on my heel and ran as sparks flew around me and got to a safe distance. I checked myself out and found I was okay, my press vest had been scorched but I had no injuries.

I was shocked as there was only a handful of people standing there who were either press, medics or civilians, the police hand threw it directly at members of the press with no regard.

I ventured back as tear gas clouds formed and returned to photographing as police fired more tear gas rounds.

Are you worried about your safety and the safety of the people around you?

Ever-increasingly I have become concerned for my own and people’s safety, the Police have begun tear-gassing, pepper-spraying and pushing press.

The police have even begun questioning press under the pretense that they are protesters in disguise.

What worries me is that a lot of police have no identification on them and also some are covering their faces, allowing them to act freely without any fear of repercussions via complaints.

Numerous times tear gas, rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, and pepper balls have been fired at close range, against operational instructions. I believe it is only a matter of time before more are seriously hurt.

Is the police reaction escalated recently?

It definitely has escalated in the time I have been here, the police are losing their temper and often need to be brought into line by other police, the use of batons, non-lethal rounds, and tear gas have become more readily used.

Arguments with members of the public break out more often and the police have been more heavy-handed when detaining people.

I think the police have been outsmarted by the protesters and all of their tactics are becoming more and more useless, frustrating police who are acting out more and more.

Did you face any problem with the authorities during your stay in HK since the protests started? Were you allowed to shoot everything?

I have been searched at an MTR station by a group of 10 riot police, where no protests were being taken, my name documented down, my bag inspected and even my diary flicked through.

The police have been using high powered torches to make it next to impossible to take photographs or capture footage of police actions. Pointing your camera at police will almost always result in a torch pointed in your face.

Other suppression of the media is pushing press back 20m away from scenes so we are unable to get any photos or footage of what is going on.

What was the most emotionally powerful moment? And what was the scariest?

The most emotionally powerful moment occurring on Argyle Street in Mong Kok. A group of protesters and members of the public marched against the police forcing them back, chanting ‘Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times’ and ‘Triads’ at the police.

The people had the power and at that time the police had to retreat.

It was emotionally powerful as the Hong Kong people of all walks of life came together and backed the protesters, marched and sang in unison. I think the police have lost the support of the general public and occurrences like this will occur more frequently.

The scariest moment was on the 31st of August. The first time I saw tear gas. A protester shouted back to the crowd, tear gas up ahead.

I geared up and arrives outside the Central Government Complex. Police on platforms were firing round after round of tear gas as protesters scrambled to diffuse them. Barricades were forming and lines of protesters shielded with umbrellas advanced closer to the police line.

Then came out the water cannon only once before seen in the protests. Chaos erupted as people retreated and the cannon opened fire, blue liquid squirted meters into the air crashing down on protesters.

I ran to take cover and got hit by the blue spray. My skinned burnt and at that point, I realized it was laced with pepper spray. I took shelter further out and got assistance from the protester medics.

I reloaded my camera, a protester shielded me with his umbrella as more tear gas rained down.

Do you think the people of Hong Kong can go back to the normal life after all of this?

It’s a tough question, I believe if all 5 demands are not met the protests will not end. There was 250,000 on the 8/9 for a peaceful march.

From what I have seen there are many more silent supporters of the protests, beeping horns, offering rides, warning of police advancing and providing shelter.

The only way for the people of Hong Kong to go back to normal life is for the 5 demands to be met.

Featured Image courtesy of Jared Stone

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Matteo Damianihttps://china-underground.com
Matteo Damiani is an Italian sinologist, photographer, author and motion designer. Matteo lived and worked for ten years in China. Founder of CinaOggi.it and China-underground.com.

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