In Hong Kong, traffic light signals make a special sound so that people who do not see well can safely cross the road. But over the past six months of unrest, many streets have become silent.
Anti-government activists have broken more than 700 traffic lights since protests began in June. They have also made holes in the sidewalk by digging up bricks and putting them in the road to block traffic.
Joy Luk, age 41, is one of the nearly 175,000 people with low or no vision living in Hong Kong. She explains how the destruction has affected her life.
“Suddenly I wonder why the road in front of me is now broken. Am I on the pavement or am I on the road?” she asks. Luk, a lawyer, takes part in the protests and offers legal advice to demonstrators.
“The people of Hong Kong think as disabled people, we can do nothing to contribute to the betterment of society,” Luk says.
“Protesting is a way to express my opinion and to show my ability to others,” she adds.
But demonstrating is not easy for Luk. She uses a white stick to feel for obstacles. She sometimes needs other people standing nearby to guide her.
“Many people tell me to go straight, but for a blind person it is very hard to go straight,” she says.
Luk can still remember the pictures of Hong Kong that she saw when she was young and still had vision. She says, “Now the picture itself is not beautiful, but the hearts and minds of the people are very beautiful.”
Billy Wong is a theology student who has problems with his vision. He is 38 years old. Like Luk, he supports the anti-government movement. But now he mostly stays home because of the increasing violence.
The “unified voice” he says he heard at earlier mass protests has changed. He describes the current sound as a loud, confusing mix coming from clashes between protesters and police.
“When you turn on the TV…You hear people demonstrating, running. They are screaming,” Wong says. “These sounds are so strange and unfamiliar to Hong Kong people.”
Wong says imagining the large protests is difficult. “I would never be able to form an image of hundreds of thousands of people in one place,” he says. “What would the scene look like? I can’t imagine.”
One group on social media is trying to help low-vision people get an idea of the protests by describing images and videos taken from the scene. But watching the violence over and over is emotionally hard. One of the people who does it says, “Sometimes, I look at the photo and I can’t write. Sometimes, I cry.”
Lawyer Joy Luk says she finds hope in the situation. The pro-democracy movement could be a step toward stronger legal protection for groups that do not have a lot of power.
“If the system is fair to everyone, maybe we as minority groups can also have better rights,” she says.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
Sarah Wu reported this story for the Associated Press. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
sidewalk - n. a usually paved walk for pedestrians at the side of a street
brick - n. a small, hard block of baked clay that is used to build structures (such as houses) and sometimes to make streets, paths, etc.
silent - adj. free from sound or noise
vision - n. the ability to see; sight or eyesight
pavement - n. the hard surface of a road, driveway, etc.
theology - n. the study of religious faith, practice, and experience
contribute - v. to give something in order to help
obstacle - n. an object that you have to go around or over: something that blocks your path
confusing - v. to make uncertain or unable to understand
unfamiliar - adj. not well-known
scene - n. the place of an occurrence or action