Interview: Hong Kong police inspector's road of warmth and bitterness
It was another night in face of rioters, and Hong Kong police inspector Kevin Cheuk could no longer contain himself.
"Think about it, you are young and promising, don't be incited by others!" A footage showing Cheuk persuading a rioter during an operation last summer went viral online.
Over the past few months, the 27-year-old stood side by side with his colleagues at the front line of riots, safeguarding the rule of law in Hong Kong.
"Their reckless behavior has ruined their future. It's not worth it," dressed in neat police uniform, the police inspector told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Of the more than 6,000 people arrested by police over the social unrest in Hong Kong since last June, nearly 40 percent were students.
Slanderous remarks about the police in some online discussion groups in Hong Kong have not stopped, and some media reports were biased to discredit the police force.
After being doxxed, Cheuk deleted his Hong Kong social media accounts to protect himself and the people around him. Instead, he switched to Weibo, a popular microblogging platform in the mainland, and has received hundreds of greeting cards mailed all the way from different places of the mainland, making him overwhelmed with gratitude.
"After being humiliated and verbally abused for so many times, the first time I received a greeting card with encouraging words on it, I couldn't hold back my tears," he said.
As time passed by, more and more Hong Kong people began to understand and support police's law enforcement activities, and became brave enough to show their support.
"More and more locals are sending us supplies and some gave us thumbs-up when we patrolled the streets. These simple actions make me feel warm, make us feel that we are not alone, and what we have been doing are recognized and supported by others," he said.
Like many other young people, Cheuk strived to pursue his own dreams. He joined the police force as a probationary inspector in 2016. Back then, however, no one would have thought that Hong Kong would face such a formidable challenge.
Working 14 to 15 hours a day on the street and sleeping on the street, these have become Cheuk's daily routine for more than half a year.
"We couldn't have regular meals since last June, because the roads were frequently blocked and our food couldn't be delivered on time," the young man said. "The longest time I didn't have anything to eat is 48 hours."
He couldn't go back home much either. "The shortest period for me to go back home is once every five to six days."
However, compared to other things, these are just small issues.
Petrol bombs, bricks, steel balls and laser beams awaited Cheuk and his colleagues whenever there was a violent protest. The escalating violence of the mob threatened the lives of every policeman at the front line.
Cheuk once texted a friend of his, saying "if Hong Kong regains peace, it does not matter if I die." He also asked his friend to make the national flag on his coffin bigger, because he is tall and afraid of the cold.
The message was put online and people were deeply touched.
Regarding some saying that Hong Kong police have been too restrained in their law enforcement actions, Cheuk said they are acting according to law and regulations.
"We only use higher force to contain escalating violence; no police personnel want to use more force if it's not necessary," he noted.
Standing at the scene of riots, Cheuk has seen the national flag being damaged by rioters.
"There is no doubt that Hong Kong is part of China. I will definitely admit that I am Chinese," Cheuk said firmly.
But what made some people in Hong Kong not admit themselves as Chinese? Cheuk thinks some media reports and online comments were to blame as they magnified the negative sides and neglected the positive sides of the country.
When asked if Hong Kong police have the confidence to stop violence and restore order in Hong Kong, the police inspector said, "100 percent."
"Hong Kong is our home. The police force are Hong Kong's last line of defense and must not lose," Cheuk said, "we are 100 percent confident that we can stop the violence and restore order and peace in Hong Kong."