Video of 'Furious and Fearless' Elderly Woman Confronting Hong Kong Police and Protesters Goes Viral

A viral video of an emotional elderly woman who took a stand between lines of riot police and pro-democracy protesters on Saturday is dividing social media users in Hong Kong.

The video, filmed during clashes in Hong Kong's northwestern area of Yuen Long, shows the distressed woman remonstrating with riot police who had been using tear gas and rubber bullets to try and disperse anti-government protesters.

Several journalists shared images of the unidentified woman on Sunday, with freelance journalist Laurel Chol describing her as "furious and fearless."

Veteran pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong then shared a video of the woman, in which she could be seen standing facing police lines and shouting at officers as protesters tried to drag her out of harm's way. According to Wong, "she cried and asked riot police not to fire bullet towards youngsters." As of Monday, the video had been retweeted by 5,400 users and received more than 11,000 likes.

Elderly citizen standing in front of the police line to defense #YuenLong demonstrators. She cried and asked riot police not to fire bullet towards youngsters.

— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) July 28, 2019

But as the video spread, other users pointed out that the woman's allegiance was not so clear-cut. Journalist Isabella Steger posted a photo of the woman, noting she "told the protesters to leave, and said that she wouldn't leave if they didn't leave." Subsequent tweets from other users suggested Wong's characterization was misleading and partisan.

This weekend's protests were some of the most violent yet, with running clashes between protesters and police in Yuen Long and in downtown Hong Kong.

The demonstration in Yuen Long was held to protest last weekend's attack on passengers in the Yuen Long subway station. The incident marked a dark turn for the current round of protests, as white shirt-wearing armed men ran amok in the station, indiscriminately attacking bystanders and those returning home from a march downtown.

Journalists, children and a pregnant women were among those beaten. At least 45 people were injured, one of them critically. Pro-democracy forces have claimed that the men belonged to pro-Beijing triad gangs, and were either ordered or allowed to attack civilians by a complicit government and police force.

The Hong Kong government, led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, dismissed suggestions that police were working with the gangs, though social media users shared videos showing armed men in discussions with police and a pro-Beijing lawmaker. Though Lam promised an investigation, she also condemned the protesters for undermining the rule of law in the territory.

This weekend, protesters and riot police fought again in Hong Kong's downtown area. Officers were trying to keep marchers away from the China Liaison Office, which is Beijing's most visible representation in the city. The building was targeted last weekend, and its walls and seal defaced by graffiti and black paint.

The protests, which began in March, are a response to a proposed change to Hong Kong's extradition laws, which would have allowed the region's government to extradite criminals to China for trial.

Opponents of the extradition legislation feared it would enable Beijing to target political opponents in Hong Kong and undermine the "one country, two systems" accord under which the island has been governed since it was transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997. The system affords Hong Kong people significant personal and political freedoms not enjoyed by mainland Chinese residents.

elderly, woman, Hong Kong, protest, viral, video
A woman shouts at police officers as they advance towards protesters in the district of Yuen Long on July 27, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Laurel Chor/Getty