Hong Kong Officer Faces Death Threats After Firing Live Round, Says He "Doesn't Regret" It

It's unclear exactly when it happened (the BBG story doesn't say), but Jacky, a Hong Kong Police Officer was working during one of the weekend demonstrations/riots that have become typical of the city in recent months. He had worked many prior demonstrations. But this time, he was beginning to feel threatened.

For hours, his unit had been engaged in what increasingly felt like a battle with protesters. Several rounds of non-lethal weapons fire, including pepper spray and rubber bullets, but the crowd wouldn't disperse.

So he decided to engage in an option commonly viewed as a last resort. He pulled out a gun, and fired a live round into the air.

"It was the first time I felt that way - not that I would necessarily die, but that something was going to happen to me and my unit," he said, speaking to a news outlet for the first time since the incident. "It’s the thing I had to do at that moment."

Nobody was hurt, but for Jacky, the danger was only just beginning. Protesters accusing him of police brutality quickly doxxed him, and began posting death threats online. Two days after the shooting, BBG reports, the calls flooded in filled with violent threats about his family.

One online post offered a bounty: 500,000 HKD to kill Jacky.

"Do you feel heroic?" one person asked. Others simply cursed at him. He switched off his phone after a day, but then the emails came in droves. Some were death threats: One message online offered a HK$500,000 ($64,000) bounty to kill him.

Police acted swiftly to increase his protection. He was moved to a secure location with his family. He doesn't regret firing the round, which he says he did to save his colleagues. But the response has been baffling. The repercussions facing his family, even his young daughter, have been surprising.

Jacky quickly moved out of the police quarters where he was staying and into a secure location. He didn’t leave the room for three weeks afterward, he said. But for him, what happened to his daughter was even worse: Shortly after he pulled her from school, her desk was painted black and vandalized. She hasn’t been able to return.

"I don’t regret having to save my colleagues, but regret that it ended up having an effect on my daughter," Jacky said, adding that the psychological pain of the personal attacks after his information was leaked was far worse than battles with protesters involving Molotov cocktails, bricks and corrosive acid. "I don’t know how our society has come to this."

According to BBG, both police and protesters have been victims of this kind of 'doxxing'. At least 11 people have been arrested for doxxing officers, which can lead to charges of disclosing personal information without consent, incitement or access to a computer with dishonest or criminal intent, BBG says. Nobody has been arrested for doxxing protesters.

Beyond the physical violence, protesters and police alike have been victims of “doxxing,” when personal information is maliciously leaked online. In August, former Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying promoted a website offering cash bounties to identify demonstrators. The following month, a Weibo account of China’s state-owned CCTV accompanied its post about a doxxing website with a call to “unmask” protesters.

Making his financial situation even more precarious, Jacky has been on leave since the incident as HK police investigate (standard procedure any time a weapon is discharged). It's likely the investigation will clear Jacky, but protesters are more worried about the police using these incidents as a convenient excuse to bring "the Great Firewall" to Hong Kong. Though at this point, it seems like warm relations between the police and large swaths of the people won't ever be restored. According to Jacky, the situation between police and the public has gotten persistently worse. When protests started in June, he said he heard some demonstrators swearing at police.

"That night, I still thought our job as police was to facilitate these protests," he said, noting that he was struck by how young some of the protesters were. "I was asking them to leave. 'Why don’t you go home? Do your parents know where you are?'"

But they turned increasingly violent and anti-police as the weeks wore on. To deal with this, Jacky says he constantly reminds himself that the protesters aren't really shouting at him, they're shouting at the government.