World

Wedding bell blues for HK protester, cop

Politics come between couple's relationship, but she trusts his 'personal conduct'

HONG KONG: The venue has been reserved, the wedding rings custom-made and the search for the dress has started. 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.

May, who is 28 and 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 she's thinking about not attending my wedding. I never thought about losing my friends... It makes me very, very sad," she said. "It has made me realise how fractured the relationship between the police and residents has become."

Hong Kong's police have become a target of intense hatred to many pro-democracy protesters who accuse them of excessive force.

Since protests began, police have fired thousands of rounds of tear gas, along with rubber bullets and pepper spray.

Viral images on social media of police hitting protesters with batons have fuelled the anger.

Police have also occasionally used live bullets, with three people shot during clashes.

Protesters have called for an independent probe into alleged police abuses, making it a key plank in their "five demands".

Police chiefs insist their officers have responded with restraint to violence from protesters throwing Molotov cocktails, bricks and other objects.

May has been with her fiance for eight years and said it was not until recently that his career become a bone of contention.

SHOCKED

She was still shocked when her best friend confronted her after wedding dress shopping.

"If he's seen this (misconduct) by the police and still thinks they have done nothing wrong, should you be with a person whose values are so different?" her friend had asked.

May, who regularly attends rallies as a peaceful protester, has seen violence first-hand. But she does not believe that her future husband - a frontline riot officer - would hurt anyone.

"I trust his personal conduct, that he wouldn't be the one hitting his baton over protesters' heads and injuring them."

She acknowledges it has become increasingly difficult to keep the political crisis from spilling into her relationship.

While she describes her fiance as apolitical and uninterested in her involvement in the protests, his friends have criticised her politics, even calling her "crazy".

With the pressure building, May delivered her fiance an ultimatum several weeks ago: "Either you quit, or I leave."

But she admits a career change would be difficult and she hasn't left him yet, though the wedding is on hold.

"I think our relationship will continue. I can't say for sure, but I'm inclined to stay," she added. "We still love each other deeply." - AFP

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