On the day of Wong’s pork protest, Tang had been summoned by councilors to answer questions about police conduct during the protests, and anticipation of a showdown turned the meeting into a political spectacle. (Public trust in the police has collapsed since protests began, and there is widespread support for an independent inquiry into the numerous allegations of the misuse of force. Lam has rejected those demands, saying that claims of police violence are “a campaign smearing and demonizing the police.”) On the 14th floor of a drab office tower, journalists spilled out of the meeting room into narrow hallways and jammed themselves into doorways, holding their cameras above their head to catch the proceedings inside. Officials hurried to print a new batch of press passes to accommodate the influx of reporters. Outside the building, dozens of sunglasses-wearing pro-police protesters gathered, waving Chinese flags and holding posters depicting valiantly posed officers, clad in futuristic body armor.
Wong told me later that the issue of police misconduct was personal: He alleges he and others were beaten by officers in a police van in 2014, and he has sued the force. The case is ongoing. His pork stunt grabbed press attention, and a few laughs. He was happy to hear Tang say that the police were looking into expanding CCTV systems in police stations, but without a firm timeline, he remained highly skeptical that it would be implemented. Tang was more defiant on other issues, refusing to apologize for police actions and saying instead that “rioters” owed the city an apology. As prodemocracy councilors put forward a motion to condemn the force, government officials and police then walked out of the meeting, later saying that they did so because the proposal was based on “unfounded allegations.”
Seated near Wong was Sam Yip, another district councilor who in November ousted a pro-Beijing incumbent who had held his seat since 1988, the year after Yip was born. Yip, who was himself arrested in September, kept a white construction helmet on the meeting-room table and, during a brief break, strapped it on as he walked into the hallway. It was meant, he said, to serve as a reminder of the protesters. A lanyard around his neck held his identification card, serving not just its obvious purpose but also to needle police officers who frequently remove or obscure the IDs they are required to wear on their uniforms.
Yip told me he wanted to run for office after attending the Umbrella Movement protests in 2014 with his younger brother. Inside areas occupied by protesters, he said, activists and demonstrators shared similar ideas, but just outside, pro-Beijing parties had set up shop and were more organized, with greater resources to promote their own message. “It made me and my friends think, Where is our district councilor? Where are the prodemocracy district councilors?” Yip ran in 2015, but lost. Now in office, he said he had discovered the job was “way busier than what I thought before,” but he was adjusting to the pace and balancing more traditional council matters, such as traffic congestion and holiday decorations, with the broader prodemocracy fight.