Sam, a 40-year-old police officer and father of one, was struck in his leg by an arrow during some of the most intense clashes last year — the November siege of Polytechnic University.
“Protests always happen in Hong Kong but I had not imagined things would end with such violent scenes,” he told AFP, asking just to use his first name.
He described himself as politically neutral but said he tried not to think about the demands protesters make, instead focusing on his job.
He said he was “disappointed” to see some residents now openly loathing police.
“Some people misunderstand us, or they have not seen the whole thing clearly and are influenced by rumors,” he said.
“I try not to discuss with friends. It’s very difficult to persuade one another.”
Ideological polarisation now permeates Hong Kong.
Ling grew up in the working class district of Sheung Shui and said he wanted to join the police after he saw triad gangsters extorting locals.
He said he remained proud to wear the uniform but that his social circle had changed — especially after earlier student-led protests in 2014.
“Quite a few friends drifted apart from me. They chose to put their political views and prejudice towards Hong Kong police in front of our friendship,” he said.
Link has asked family to keep his job quiet and keeps a low profile on social media.
Many Hong Kong officers have opened accounts on mainland China’s heavily censored Twitter-like Weibo platform where they are lavished with praise from readers — and even professions of love.
Ling found new online friends that way.
“They left supporting messages on Weibo… That made me feel warm inside,” he said.
“I’ve got more friends, friends who I’ve never met.”
PHOTOS BY ANTHONY WALLACE/afp
by Yan ZHAO / Jerome TAYLOR