Wedding blues for protester
Hong Kong – The venue is reserved, the wedding rings custom-made and the search for the dress has begun. But Hong Kong protester May’s nuptials are on hold because her friends oppose her marrying a policeman.
Six months of unprecedented protests in Hong Kong against eroding freedoms under Chinese rule have divided the city’s population. Rifts in some cases have pitted relatives, friends and even lovers against each other.
May, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, is one of those who has seen the politics become deeply personal, threatening to torpedo her February wedding.
“One of my closest friends – my maid of honour – told me that she’s thinking about not attending my wedding,” said May.
“It has made me realise how fractured the relationship between the police and residents has become.”
Since protests began, police have fired thousands of rounds of tear gas, along with rubber bullets and pepper spray.
Police have also occasionally used live bullets, with three people shot during clashes. None of the shootings resulted in deaths, but two of those shot suffered serious injuries.
Protesters have called for an independent probe into alleged police abuses, making it a key plank in their “five demands”.
May has been with her fiancé for eight years, but says it wasn’t until recently that his career become a bone of contention.
Friends have distanced themselves and there have been tense moments when jokes about protesters and police have fallen flat. But she was still shocked when her best friend confronted her about the relationship after the pair went wedding dress shopping.
“She said: ‘You’re not married yet, you still have the choice’,” May recounted.
May, who has regularly attended rallies as a peaceful protester, has seen violence first-hand.
But she doesn’t believe that her future husband – a frontline riot officer – would hurt anyone.
Police weddings have also been targeted by protesters, with tear gas and rubber bullets being fired at crowds trying to disrupt the celebrations.
The tensions in the city and the responses of her friends have left May feeling despondent.
“It makes me feel that my wedding won’t be blessed, just because my partner is a policeman,” May said.
With the pressure building, May said she delivered her fiancé an ultimatum several weeks ago: “Either you quit, or I leave.”
But she admitted a career change would be difficult for him, and she hasn’t left him yet, though the wedding was on hold and may yet be cancelled.
“I think our relationship will continue,” she said quietly. “We still love each other.”