On July 1st 1997 the United Kingdom’s lease on Hong Kong (HK) expired and political control was handed over to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The PRC and the UK agreed the way of life in HK was to remain unchanged for 50 years with a democratically elected local government, free speech and an independent judiciary. The PRC began a legislative whittling down of democracy basically stripping away democratic rights. Then in 2019 a proposed Extradition Bill that would make extradition from HK to the PRC easy sparked over 800 demonstrations and over 10,000 protestors arrested. The majority of the arrests were students but lawyers, activists, academics and politicians were also “rounded up” and once one is extradited to China the prosecution success rate is 99.9%.
Why is this documentary called “Faceless”? Demonstrators covered their faces to avoid being “recognized”. The PRC has the most advanced AI surveillance system in the world surprisingly assisted by Google. As one of the featured protestors said he hoped that one day we can greet each other unmasked. Unmasking will be the victory sought and the protest and resistance must continue. We must see that day.
The resistance is seen through 4 protestors. The Daughter of a policeman. The Believer who is a Christian. The Artist, a lesbian, who believes art can serve as a weapon of protest. The Student. Well there are also The Parents who are the older generation helping out the young protestors and The Navigators tracking police movements.
I will not tell you their stories lest I ruin the film but their beliefs are tested and they go through emotional experiences that transform the character they had at the outset of the protests.
The amount of people involved and the police brutality is shocking. Well not really considering the police are the control of the PRC. I have never seen so much teargas, water cannons and beatings. Carrie Lam the CEO of HK at the time is a laughable stoolie.
Coming back to reality did anyone really believe these courageous protestors ever have a chance against the PRC that always saw HK as a proper part of China. While the people of China in many respects are just like you and me but their political regime as recently seen by the imprisonment of two Canadians on trumped up spying charges and the alleged genocide (politely referred to by the PRC as re-education) of Chinese Uighur Muslims has a nasty side to it. You might even want to call China an imperialist power. Has the PRC become what it so bitterly criticized the United States of being?
PRC’s next prize will be Taiwan. Will it be enough to bring the United States into a war with the PRC?
This will show as a World Premiere at Toronto Hot Docs and will be available from April 29- May 9 only viewable to those in Canada. You can buy tickets here https://hotdocs.ca/p/hot-docs-festival
This 82-minute 2021 HK, USA and Canadian film is directed by Jennifer Ngo. In Chinese with English subtitles.
You can watch the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4oZhxoy2TY