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American living in Hong Kong tells true story about "peaceful protesters"



More than five months ago, Dan Albertson, 35, left Chicago where he had lived for 10 years to start a new life in Hong Kong. Like many other travelers, he looked forward to the fresh experience in this free and open international metropolis of China.

However, violent protests and destructive activities erupted all of a sudden and kept intensifying in the months following.

"Parts of my neighborhood are now ransacked almost every weekend. It has become as predictable as the sunrise. I am tired of seeing this needless destruction, and tired of the excuses, the justifications, the silence," the U.S. writer and translator said in an open letter published on Facebook.

Covering a wide range of topics from the rampage of rioters to distortion in media reports, the open letter was translated into Chinese and published by multiple media outlets.

Albertson, living in a small apartment in Kowloon, has witnessed with his own eyes how escalating violence and lawlessness pushed the prosperous, dynamic global financial and trade center into chaos inch by inch since June.

"I thought that I had to write something and express to people what it is like in Hong Kong. It requires one to speak out because to remain silent is to become complicit," Albertson said.

While those contributing to the months-long unrest in Hong Kong were described as "peaceful protesters" in some media reports, Albertson believes the term can only be used with quotation marks.

"They are obviously not peaceful," Albertson said, citing violent acts including vandalism of public facilities, destruction in stores and bitter assaults on residents holding different views. "The only thing that they can show is that they can destroy."

Photo taken on Nov. 2, 2019 shows a damaged ATM on the road in Hong Kong, south China. Rioters on Saturday caused a great deal of damage around Hong Kong. (Xinhua)

Over the weekend, Hong Kong was again under the rampage of mobsters. Besides routine activities from blocking roads and hurling petrol bombs to attacking police and trashing shops, the office building of a media outlet was vandalized.

More than 300 were arrested over illegal and violent acts and 12 police officers were injured.

In the past few months, 85 metro stations had been damaged, 460 sets of traffic lights out of order, and more than 40,000 meters of iron railing were torn down.

"There's no way you can have a better life by destroying your city," Albertson said. "When you smash stores, you also smash the ability of somebody to do what you and I do, which is to do a job and to get paid for it. Nobody has the right to do that."

Some protesters once told Albertson that there was no more important issue in Hong Kong right now than taking to the street. "I was very skeptical," he said.

"There are many other issues in Hong Kong, like building more affordable housing, making the transit better, and controlling air pollution, which are something that can actually make Hong Kong a better place," Albertson said.

Albertson said, unfortunately, his friends in Europe and the United States did not know what was happening in Hong Kong as there was a big gap between some media reports and the real situation.

"I read a lot of irresponsible reports about unconfirmed information, even rumors, and releases of selective and edited videos to show police brutality," Albertson said.

Rioters damage the exit of the Central Station of mass transit railway (MTR) in Hong Kong, south China, on Nov. 2, 2019. (Xinhua)

"If there's one police officer surrounded by a group of people, what do you expect him to do? Do you expect him to lie down and let people beat him up that way? The media outlets never showed protesters' actions before. They want you to see the after video," Albertson said.

In regard to the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 pushed by some U.S. lawmakers, Albertson thought it was groundless as the rights of Hong Kong residents were fully guaranteed from his knowledge.

"Instead, the protesters have too much freedom. I would struggle to think of a place where you could do this kind of behavior for more than 20 weekends in a row," Albertson said.

Albertson loves to travel and has visited many parts of the world, including some cities in the Chinese mainland. Trips were also made by him to Hong Kong many times before. He deplored the fact that the used-to-be free and inclusive place has been plunged deeper and deeper into violence.

Expected to leave Hong Kong in a year due to job changes, Albertson hopes to see restored peace when he is still here. "I love Hong Kong, I want to see it remain an inviting, inclusive and special place," he said.


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