The hard hat, which has become a symbol of the summer of discontent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, can be found in any hardware store, but its full gas mask goes online for about $ 200, just over 15% of its monthly fortunately, the 26-year-old received his free, purchased with donations from a crowdfunding campaign in support of ongoing anti-government protests. Initially triggered by opposition to the already-extradited extradition bill, unrest – now in its eleventh week – has expanded to include a number of demands that have plunged into years of frustration over stagnant political reform and economic injustice in Hong Kong.
Earlier that evening, CNN visited the 140-square-meter (13-square-foot) apartment of Xie, which he shares with his cat, Tai Kwan. He works as a courier for a law firm this week, making about $ 1,300 a month. He spends $ 740 on this rent and is proud of his apartment. Although expensive and cramped, it enjoys the freedom it offers – a rarity for many working-class young people in Hong Kong who live with their parents until they have a family of their own.
Earlier this year, he moved from his parent's home because he did not get along with his father. He said they had fallen over politics.
The veteran of protests
Zheo's political awakening came when he joined the demand for the introduction of a universal pension scheme in Hong Kong – something that will benefit many families of working groups in Sham Shui Po.
"I have seven years of experience in the pro-democracy movement," he said. He is now a supporter of Demosisto, a political party co-founded by activist Joshua Wong, who is closer to the mainstream than many of the groups involved in the ongoing anti-government protests, but still strongly oppose any move that would limit the difficult the freedoms of the city.
While It has been involved in "almost all" of the protests in the last two months, he denies carrying out any acts of violence, stating that he is joining the front lines to "construct barricades", "helping the victims" "and" rescue the police. "
"Personally, I totally disagree with violent acts, but I understand why they are being committed," said Tse. "They were treated unfairly. Police have attacked protesters with extreme force. "
Since June 12, when police first used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters outside the city's legislative system, there have been numerous accusations of brutal police, including by international human rights groups, and calls for an independent investigation.The police responded by saying they were using force only in response to violence against protesters.
Beds of anti-government sentiment
the movement may have its roots in the bill on extradition and dissatisfaction with Hong Kong's semi-democratic system, economic and class problems are not far off the surface,
The richest 10% of Hong Kong earn about 10x the monthly salary of Ce, which is already is many times more than the poorest in the city, and the young people who clashed with police on Wednesday in Sham Shui Po are worlds apart from business travelers and rich planes who have been uncomfortable with shutting down the airport.
Much more affluent Hong Kong people have a backup of a foreign passport, which allows them to leave if Beijing has a one-state, two-system tire that governs Hong Kong as sovereignty has shifted from British to Chinese rule through 1997
"The government must take from the rich and give to the poor so that they can live in Hong Kong as well," Tse said. "The government has never done anything to promote social mobility, instead it has widened the wealth gap and made it difficult for young people to buy an apartment."
While chief executive Kari Lam has acknowledged that financial stress for workers and young people may be at the root of political discontent in Hong Kong, her advisers say she knows it's a problem.
A senior government official told CNN against the backdrop that the government understands that many Hong Kong youths feel "hopeless". The 2016 census showed that young people are increasingly dropping out of the workforce. For workers, wages do not keep up with the ever-increasing cost of living and there are concerns about young people's brain drain as economic and political pressures force people to move abroad.
On Thursday, Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced a $ 2.4 million economic stimulus package created in part to alleviate the economic downturn caused by ongoing protests. The package included government housing rent reductions, additional social payments and school subsidies.
And this is just the rental market. For many young Hong Kong people, owning your own home, after being a key part of the city's post-1997 identity, is completely out of reach.
"How can (young people) buy an apartment?" asked community organizer Sham Shui Po Gordon Chick. "Depends on your parents. Are they rich? Or not. If they are rich, they can give you the money to buy. If not, sorry."
Not afraid of prison
More than 700 people have been arrested during the June protests and many face serious prison terms on charges of disorder and unlawful assembly.
He was arrested twice in protests in the past – though not this summer – and said he was not afraid to go to prison.
He loves his apartment, but many in the city joke that the prison cell will be larger than their expensive lodgings. Hong Kong's prisons are an average of 75 square meters (7 square meters), not much smaller than Tse's apartment and much larger than many apartments in Sham Shui Po.
Graffiti shook on the walls of the equally poor Wong Tai Son neighborhood, capturing how economic problems play out in people's willingness to protest: "7k for a house like a cell and do you really think we are scared out of prison here?" CNN's Eric Cheung contributed to the reporting.