As students in Hong Kong lead the territory in protesting against Chinese efforts to block direct elections in 2017, I find myself trying very hard not to get pulled into watching, waiting, and weeping from afar as I did during the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan during March and April earlier this year.
For those of you who haven’t heard much about the new protests in Hong Kong, or about the background reasons for them, please check out this introductory piece for English readers.
Why Hong Kong’s protests are a very big deal via The Washington Post.
Sunday afternoon, I watched the live feed for a few hours, sitting comfortably at my dining room table and sipping tea against the fall chill. Listening the sound of tear gas canisters being fired into crowds half a world away, watching police in paramilitary gear with cans of pepper spray confront protestors, and hearing their screams in response. Snapping screenshots and tweeting.
That feeling won’t go away, but it was helped by reading Professor Denise Ho’s piece on ChinaFile, an open letter to her students in Hong Kong that I whole-heartedly recommend you read, especially if you’re feeling distant and useless.
If my fears lie in seeing you as still too young, my hopes rest in your being able to stand on your own. In the past weeks you have taught me a great deal, and I know that you are not naive. Some of you openly state that boycotting classes won’t bring true universal suffrage. Some of you maintain that beyond the horizon of these weeks, resistance may one day bring Hong Kong an electoral system that can truly serve the people. In the meantime, my hope is one that you have expressed, that you will “stop for a moment and think about what [you] can do for Hong Kong,” that this experience will enliven how you pursue your studies and your future. Not all of you must be activists, but I hope that you will be active, that the flame you carry today will illuminate your way, in darkness and in light.
Maybe have a box of tissues on hand.