‘Hong Kong Protester Looks Like a Post Apocalyptic Survivor’

On November 17 2019, the following image was shared to Reddit’s r/pics, titled: “Hong Kong Protester looks like a post apocalyptic survivor. May HK have the strength it needs to survive”:

Either r/pics mods or the user tagged the submission “Politics,” and it received over 100,000 upvotes in under 24 hours and quickly went viral across social media platforms. The submission also received seven Reddit awards, and was gilded three times by fellow users.

No information accompanied the image-based submission, such as a source for the photograph, a date, or linked news coverage. Readers expressed feelings of solidarity for protesters in Hong Kong:

The big question. How far is the police and your government allowed to fuck you before it’s okay to defend yourself? Half the people on here seem to think it’s okay for police to just straight kill you and you thank them afterwards.

Others referenced long-running memes about being shot in the knee with an arrow.

In separate comments, users speculated about the vials visibly strapped to the young man’s chest, and a self-identified nurse surmised they were saline to be used as tear gas eye wash.

The original poster did not link to an article about or including the image in the thread’s comments. A separate account linked to a BBC article mentioning the use of arrows, but not featuring the image in particular:

A stand-off at a Hong Kong university campus has led to fiery clashes overnight [from November 17-18 2019], as hundreds of protesters tried to repel a police advance.

Large fires broke out at entrances to the Polytechnic University (PolyU), where protesters hurled petrol bombs and shot arrows from behind barricades.

Officers earlier warned they could use live ammunition if protesters did not stop attacking them using such weapons.

A reverse image search showed that the image was largely published outside the United States, and that it was buried within a larger gallery. The image was taken by Associated Press photographer Kin Cheung, and it was widely republished on November 17 2019 with the caption:

Hong Kong protests
A protestor prepares to fire a bow and arrow during a confrontation with police at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Nov. 17, 2019. (Kin Cheung / AP)

An accompanying AP article that was widely reprinted by affiliates reported:

Police launched a late-night operation Sunday to try to flush about 200 protesters out of a university campus on a day of clashes in which an officer was hit in the leg with an arrow and massive barrages of tear gas and water cannons were fired.

Riot police began moving in on one group of protesters outside the campus after issuing an ultimatum for people to leave area. They used tear gas and water cannons on a resistant crowd wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas.

Protesters used bows and arrows earlier in the day, and one arrow struck a media liaison officer in the calf. Photos on the department’s Facebook page show the arrow sticking out of the back of the officer’s leg through his pants.

As riot police moved in from all sides, some protesters retreated inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University while others set fires on bridges leading to it.

The photograph is both undoctored and current, captured on November 17 2019 during clashes between protesters and police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.