Surrounded by police and waded in on all sides, protesters make numerous attempts to breach police lines and escape outside. As they do so, they grapple with the fact that it will prove highly difficult to extricate all of those in the university, such as the wounded, or civilians that have become waded in with protesters in PolyU. Arriving at collective decision-making proves difficult, with no clear tactical solutions about how to break through police lines, and constant debate about whether new attempts should be made to escape the university, and about the strategy of attrition adopted by police toward demonstrators.
With the siege going on for days, the film highlights aspects of the daily life of occupiers within PolyU. Interactions with police include protesters and police broadcasting music at each other or exchanging insults through loudspeaker, or otherwise attempting to reason with police about their use of violence against civilians. Similarly, the film makers interview several protesters, who speak candidly of their fear of arrest, injury, or death—with it believed by many protesters that the Hong Kong police have killed or sexually assaulted some of those that they have arrested.
What the film most ably captures is the constant back-and-forth between protesters about tactical considerations. Although protesters generally realize that they are all on the same side— accusations against some individuals of being undercover police notwithstanding—debate about what to do is increasingly heated as the occupation drags on. With many protesters having slept little over the course of several days, their frustration is increasingly palpable, as PolyU more and more resembles a war zone under constant police fire.
Indeed, perhaps what the siege of PolyU evidences is the means in which Hong Kong is itself under siege, with PolyU serving as a metaphor for the city writ large. It is increasingly a dilemma for activists as to whether they stay or leave Hong Kong, if they are able to leave Hong Kong to begin with. Much as the students in PolyU were under constant siege by police, this perhaps resembles how the space for political freedoms in Hong Kong is continually shrinking, with frequent reports of new arrests or new jail sentences handed down to activists. And, as this space shrinks, one can expect increasingly intense infighting among the Hong Kong activists that remain, much as conflicts between the PolyU occupiers became increasingly intense as the siege by police went on.
Inside the Brick Wall—a film that can no longer safely be safely screened in Hong Kong—will no doubt prove a worthy historical document of the Hong Kong protests. Not only does the film document a key moment in the protests, but it proves a film encapsulating the dynamics of the protest in microcosm—and the subjective struggle faced by Hongkongers as a whole today.