Pleading Hong Kong protester draws comparisons to Tiananmen Square’s ‘Tank Man’
Photos and video of an unarmed Hong Kong protester pleading with a cop who has her pistol drawn have gone viral on social media — with users drawing comparisons to the iconic “Tank Man” from the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
“Different Places. Same Tactics. Two Heros [sic],” wrote one person on Twitter, who dubbed the Hong Kong protester “Pistol Man.”
Carrying nothing but an umbrella, the demonstrator can be seen in video and photos — one captured by Lam Yik Fei of the New York Times — facing off with a female officer. She appears to point her gun in his direction as he yells something at her.
Lam, a photographer for the Times, said he saw the clash unfold on Sunday night following a peaceful protest in the Tsuen Wan area of Hong Kong. Demonstrators were clutching umbrellas — a symbol of the ongoing resistance movement — and being ordered back by the police. It was reportedly the first time cops used weapons with live ammunition to deter the crowds.
At one point, an officer fired off a warning shot into the air — sparking the protesters to retreat and beg for their lives. “Pistol Man” was one of them.
“He said, ‘Don’t shoot,’” Lam recalled, noting how the middle-aged man dropped to his knees. Video shows him being kicked by the female officer moments later.
Police officials later claimed at a press conference that the cop’s response was out of “natural instinct.” They said that officers had pulled their guns after being attacked by the demonstrators.
“Six officers drew their service weapons because their lives were under threat,” Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu told reporters.
Social media users, however, were bashing Chinese authorities for the show of force — and praising the protester for his “bravery.”
“He was standing between protesters, reporters and police officers (who pulled out their guns), shouting ‘Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot them!’” tweeted Cantopop singer and actress Denise Ho. “Greatest respect towards this fellow Hongkonger. Salute!”
The unidentified demonstrator drew countless comparisons to the “Tank Man” from the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, who was also never identified. The images of his confrontation with a group of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square were widely shared and published in both Time and Life magazines.
The “Pistol Man” incident wrapped up a wild weekend of protests — which resulted in 86 people, including one as young as 12, being thrown behind bars.
The pro-democracy demonstrations first erupted over opposition to a since-suspended extradition bill that would have enabled the country’s criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial. They are now entering their 12th week.