Rony Wong, a surveyor in his thirties, was wearing a Pepe mask with a nurse’s hat on top and said he chose the design because he wanted to thank medical professionals who have been helping those wounded in the protests, often in underground clinics.
“I believe the medical sector is with the Hong Kong people,” he told AFP.
A furniture shop worker who only gave his surname, Mok, was wearing a black Pepe helmet with “1984” on one eye and the Chinese Communist Party symbol on the other.
“1984 was the year when the joint declaration was signed,” he said, referring to the treaty between Britain and China that paved the way for Hong Kong’s handover and guaranteed the city would maintain freedoms unseen on the mainland for at least fifty years.
Hong Kong’s protests are fuelled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out those liberties.
Sirius Tam, a 21-year-old university student, was wearing a Pepe mask with a bag of “Life Bread” sticking out of the mouth.
The local bakery brand has also become a symbol for protesters after a police officer was filmed boasting that he and his colleagues could go and eat hotpot across the border in Shenzhen while protesters would have to make do with the simple bread.
“What has been stirred up in society the past few months won’t simply fade away if the government refuses to solve the problem of systematic injustice,” he told AFP.
He said protesters like him feared that if they stop hitting the streets, Beijing will only clamp down harder on the city’s remaining freedoms.
“Then what change will we have achieved?” he asked.