She has been the face of large Hong Kong protests against a controversial extradition bill. But the young woman, who came to be known as “Shield Girl”, tells the BBC that she will fight on despite the bill’s indefinite suspension.
Darkness had fallen. Crowds were thinning. A lone girl, in a meditative pose, defiantly sat in front of a row of riot police.
It has become an iconic image from the Hong Kong demonstrations.
“Bravery in the face of brutality. Beautiful,” wrote an observer on Twitter.
“The innocence of youth and the riot shields of the authority,” wrote Hong Kong-based Irish journalist Aaron Mc Nicholas.
Dubbed “Shield Girl”, she even inspired this artwork from one of China’s leading dissident artists Badiucao.
Her name is Lam Ka Lo. The 26-year-old came to the Admiralty district by herself, where the government headquarters are located, on Tuesday night, hours ahead of a rally organised by Civil Human Rights Front.
There were hundreds of protesters with her at that spot, but more and more police officers in full riot gear arrived.
“No one really dared to stand so close to the line of police officers,” she said, adding that she did not fear police but worried that other protesters might be injured.
She started meditating and chanting the Om mantra when tension was running high.
“I just wanted to send my positive vibes,” she said. “But protesters also hurled insults at the police. At that moment, I just wanted fellow protesters to sit next to me and not to chide them.”
But the young woman doesn’t want to be the face of the protests.
“I don’t want attention,” Lam said. “But if people think that it was moving to see me sit down in front of the police, I hope more people would be encouraged to be braver, to express themselves.”
Meditating and anger
Lam’s calmness is largely owed to her practice of meditation.
An avid traveller, Lam has visited more than a dozen countries in Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe. She dabbled in meditation during her trip to Nepal four years ago – when the country was rattled by a deadly earthquake.
The young woman says she’s a naturally emotional person, but meditation has helped her be more mindful of her feelings and achieve inner peace.
But Lam, who spent every single day in the streets during the 79-day Umbrella Movement in 2014, was not emotionally prepared by the dramatic showdown between police officers and protesters on Wednesday afternoon.
“I do feel a bit of hatred because some students were injured by police,” she said, adding that she was not at the protest site when the violence unfolded on Wednesday. “We are only human to have feelings.”
The young woman says, however, the protest movement should not alienate police officers and still believes non-violence is the way to achieve the goal of the protesters.
“Violence doesn’t solve anything.”
On Saturday, the protesters scored what is being seen as a major concession. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the extradition bill would be shelved, and no timetable for its re-introduction given.
But Lam Ka Lo remains defiant.
“I don’t see it as a success.”
She wants to see the bill withdrawn, the Wednesday clashes not categorised as riot, and the release of arrested protesters.
She urges her fellow protesters to continue their fight and join the march on Sunday.
“Come with your friends and family. Come in groups. Express yourselves in your own ways. I used meditation, but it doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Everyone can protest creatively and meaningfully.”
‘Shield Girl’: The face of Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement}