Beneath the neon lights of Causeway Bay’s shopping malls and restaurants, a man in a yellow hard hat and black shirt pressed his knee into the back of a protester who was pinned down by the police. With his cheek to the ground and his own blood pooling beneath his face, the protester pleaded for mercy.
“Even my front tooth is broken. I’m sorry,” he said, his body heaving as he cried.
The hard hat and black clothes have become the standard uniform of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, but the man who aided police in the arrest last Sunday was actually part of an undercover operation, the police department said in a press conference earlier this week. It was the first time that authorities had publicly confirmed using undercover officers. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said the operation was to target “core extreme protesters.”
Since the protests started in June over a controversial extradition bill, participants have routinely covered their faces, blocked or smashed closed-circuit television cameras, and communicated over encrypted apps to conceal their identities. But with the protests growing into a wider resistance movement, with police expanding their tactics and nearly 750 people arrested, protesters are increasingly paranoid about how the authorities are working to identify them — and who can be trusted.