The Bagman of Hong Kong
I am asked -- Why did you characterize the following picture in Comment 200705#087 as 'bizarre'?
First and foremost, the postures of the other three individuals are disturbing. It is as if they deliberately posed to set up the perfect photo opportunity for the Apple Daily photographer. Instead of blocking the view, they stood aside in perfect spacing for the photograph to be taken.
Secondly, it is an incredible photograph of a restrained individual with a bag on his head. The man is handcuffed and strapped onto the stretcher. Why is it necessary to put a bag/hood on his head? In Hong Kong, suspects have their faces covered up as a matter of routine. This is done primarily to protect the rights of the suspects. First of all, they may in fact be innocent, in which case their faces should not have been displayed on all the television news channels and newspaper covers. Secondly, if they should ever have to be in a police line-up for identification purposes, the witnesses would not be influenced by the view that they glimpsed on television or in newspapers (see The Bagman of Hong Kong for another previous example).
Thirdly, the most important reason why I thought this was bizarre was because of the associations that such a photograph evoked for me. What then? When the EastSouthWestNorth blog was first started, it was a 50% Latin American blog, 40% Iraq war blog and 10% Greater China blog. In March 2003, the war in Iraq had just began and this was the first war that I paid full attention to. Among the things that I collected were photographs of 'bagmen.'
The most significant 'bagman' photograph was this one. It was the World Press Photo of the Year 2003 taken by Jean-Marc Bouju (France) for The Associated Press. The description was: Iraqi man comforts his son at a regroupment center for POWs, Najaf, Iraq, 31 March, 2003.
In Iraq, the "hooding" is sometimes done by the Americans to impose extensive periods of sensory deprivation to disorient and demoralize the prisoners. It is often done in conjunction with other forms of 'softening up', such as beatings in which the hooded prisoners cannot see where or when the blows are coming from. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of US forces in Iraq, also said: "When you take a father in front of his family and put a bag over his head and put him on the ground, you have had a significant adverse effect on his dignity and respect in the eyes of his family."
Here is the pivotal moment in which US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was questioned by Senator Jack Reed on television in a Senate hearing (ABC News):
SEN JACK REED: ... a bag over your head for 72 hours. Is that humane?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Let me come back to what you said the work…
SEN JACK REED: No, no. Answer the question, Secretary. Is that humane?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I don't know whether it means a bag over your head for 72 hours Senator. I don't know.
SEN JACK REED: Mr Secretary, you're dissembling, non-responsive. Anybody would say putting a bag over someone's head for 72 hours, which is sensory deprivation…
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I believe it's not humane. It strikes me as not humane, Senator.
SEN JACK REED: Thank you very much.
Here are some more photographs that I had collected at the time. I hope that you understand why this particular situation has left a deep impression on me and why I associate the Apple Daily picture immediately with this situation. Maybe the circumstances are quite different, but I cannot avoid the evocation. But I am detailed enough to know that the Hong Kong police leaves two holes for the eyes to see whereas the Americans blank all visuals in Iraq.