Hong Kong Youth Show The World How Protest Demonstrations Are Actually Done

By Ben Beaumont:

Last month Yvonne Leung Lai Kwong, a 21-year-old undergraduate and student union president, found herself at the forefront of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. She gives her insight into the largely youthful protests, which at their peak saw up to 100,000 people take to the streets.

I wouldn’t say I am an organizer of the demonstrations — there is no one organizer here. But young people and students have definitely been the primary initiators.

Yvonne Leung Lai Kwong: “These three weeks spent on the streets with my fellow demonstrators have been an intense experience.”
Yvonne Leung Lai Kwong: “These three weeks spent on the streets with my fellow demonstrators have been an intense experience.”

I fell into this role quite unexpectedly. I first ran for students’ union president eight months ago with the intention of bringing students together and contributing where I was needed. I never expected events to unfold as they have.

There are people who say the scale of the demonstrations is a result of students playing a key role, and it’s true that some people came out in solidarity after the police used tear gas and pepper spray. It’s hard to say for sure what the turnout would have been had that not happened. However, I do believe people are staying on now because they have been moved by young people’s strong conviction in pursuing genuine democracy. I have also been very touched by the protestors who remained on the streets despite the use of tear gas.

The “politest” demonstrators
These three weeks spent on the streets with my fellow demonstrators have been an intense experience. Many of us have become close friends who truly care for each other’s safety. I’ve also witnessed great self-discipline from students and young people. They have led the recycling of materials and resources at protest sites, and some have also volunteered to clean up the streets.

“The people on the streets see themselves as bargaining chips who can help us negotiate with the government.”
“The people on the streets see themselves as bargaining chips who can help us negotiate with the government.”

No one is directing these activities, but there are volunteers who spontaneously take up duties. For example, my hall mates from university turn up every morning and schedule shifts for themselves. I’ve also seen youngsters on bicycles delivering food to those who haven’t eaten. These acts of civic consciousness are reasons why we have been dubbed the “politest demonstrators”. I believe there are many strong bonds that have been forged here that will last for a long time.

I’m aware that our critics say the demonstrations have caused economic losses and bring inconvenience to people’s lives. We recognize some of that and have frequently apologized to those who have been affected, such as workers who have had to leave home early because of the traffic disruption. We have also at times tried to negotiate with demonstrators occupying roads so vehicles can go through, but we also respect the demonstrators’ choices if they insist on staying on the roads. The people on the streets see themselves as bargaining chips who can help us negotiate with the government.

Street recycling bags during the Hong Kong protests.
Street recycling bags during the Hong Kong protests.

What young people want
We are fighting for genuine democracy, but the increase in inequality is another reason why young people have turned out in such large numbers. We feel that social mobility is declining and the social ladder is very difficult for us to climb.

My parents worry greatly about my safety, but they also understand and share my political beliefs. They call me every day to make sure I’m safe and have also tried to persuade me to retreat. I have skipped classes for three weeks and, like everyone else, I am very keen to see a resolution. The upcoming dialogue with the government is definitely a positive development, but I’m not in a position to forecast what will come out of it. Unless there’s some real progress towards genuine universal suffrage, we will not budge.

This article was originally published here.

Similar Posts

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below