HONG KONG - Mr Dan Garrett, a tattooed former Pentagon intelligence analyst, has attracted more stares than usual lately as he prowls the streets in this Chinese city with a camera fitted with a 300mm lens, snapping images of pro-democracy demonstrations, signs and stickers.
"I don't think it's the tattoos any more," he said one recent morning before his daily ramble through Hong Kong's protest camps. "I think they've read the things about me or seen the pictures online and they're thinking, 'What is he really up to? Is he that American spy?'"
Pro-Beijing newspapers and politicians in Hong Kong, as well as mainland Chinese media, have said he is - and have made him a prime exhibit in their allegations of a Western conspiracy behind the city's political tumult.
Citing his past work for US intelligence agencies, they say Mr Garrett has engaged in Washington-sponsored subversion, seeking to kindle revolt against the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr Garrett, 47, says he is vexed. "This is weird at several different levels," he said. "I am not James Bond."
A student at the City University of Hong Kong, Mr Garrett is writing a dissertation on how the city became a battleground between rival political symbols.
"I am not and never have been a spy," he said. "I've become used in a campaign to make people scared of being painted as collaborating with foreigners."
NEW YORK TIMES