By photographer Isaac Yee.
Daphos, 17, is unlike most students his age. He is one of the youngest frontline medical volunteers to treat the countless number of people wounded during Hong Kong’s seven months of unrest.
When he was 13, Daphos – who was granted a pseudonym – began first aid medical training and has not stopped since. Despite being younger than his volunteer counterparts, he is arguably one of the more experienced. He holds a Certificate in First Aid from St. John’s Ambulance, an International Trauma Life Support certificate from Hong Kong Emergency Medical Services Corps, and he leads a team of more than 10 medics every couple of weeks to the protest frontlines.
Hong Kong has been shaken by seven months of mass pro-democracy protests, some of which have ended in violent clashes. No exact figure exists for the total number of injuries, with many opting to forgo public hospital visits owing to fear of arrest. On Monday, police said that 6,105 people – 4,538 men and 1,567 women – had been arrested since June 9.
“I’ve always been really interested in first aid and emergency medicine and I’ve already been taking a lot of classes and courses around those topics, so I wanted to contribute to a movement that I believed [by] doing things that I was good at,” Daphos told HKFP.
The full-time high school student said he has been interested in first aid since he was in his early teens. When the protests erupted in June, it was only natural for him to put down his books and pick up his gas mask and medical kit, he said.
But Daphos explained he still has to juggle the pressures of frontline first aid work with his academic studies or risk falling behind in class. “I only ever go out if I have all of my school work done… I take a pretty rigorous academic diploma so the workload there is pretty high,” he said.
Standing on the sidelines, ready to spring into action, first aiders often bear the brunt of ugly protester-police clashes. Some have even faced arrest.
Last month, during the police siege on the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, officers arrested 12 people who “claimed to be medics” and lacked official first aid qualifications, in relation to rioting. In a photo widely circulated online, the suspects were seen wearing reflective vests, sitting on the ground with their hands zip-tied behind their backs. The move came amidst growing public concern of indiscriminate arrests at the then-weekly protests.
Daphos said that his decision to volunteer as a first aider at protests has received pushback from his mother, who could not understand his motives.
“At first, my mother was pretty disapproving of the entire movement and failed to see the point and the reasoning behind the actions of the protesters,” he said. “She always talked badly about them and criticised first aiders [who] helped their cause, so I was pretty scared about telling her what I was doing basically every weekend.”
“Once I told her that I was involved, she seemed upset at first but is slowly coming around to becoming more understanding about not only what I’m doing but why the protesters are doing what they are doing,” he said.
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