HK student activists should be Time's Persons of the Year

November 18, 2019 14:24
The students have shown they are ready to lay down their lives if need be to fight for what they believe in. Photo: Reuters

Some say they are the lost generation. Others believe they are braver and smarter than their fellows at Tiananmen 30 years ago.

But the students who have been leading the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong over the past five months undoubtedly win my vote in the annual poll for Time Magazine's "Person of the Year".

The fierce battles they have waged against riot police have shown their courage and determination despite the overwhelming odds against them, as well as their ingenuity in the face of a far superior and organized force.

At press time, the defiant protesters at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University remained trapped inside the campus as riot police guarded the exits. That's after battling with police overnight with petrol bombs, projectiles, bricks and whatever weapons they could find.

For a week, they have blocked the Cross Harbour Tunnel that links Hong Kong and Kowloon and set up barricades around the university campus, as part of efforts to cripple the city to pursue their demands.

A similarly valiant stand was made by their comrades at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Shatin, who blocked the Tolo Highway, another major expressway that connects Shatin and Taipo in eastern New Territories, and engaged the police in brutal pitched battles.

By now, the police realize that the students are serious about pursuing their fight, and ready to lay down their lives if need be. Their rallying cry: "Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times!"

No revolution is bloodless. The casualty numbers are rising. Just to give us an idea of how violent the confrontations have become, police said they have fired over 10,000 tear gas canisters since the protests began in June. 

As the intensity of the resistance escalates, police have threatened to use live bullets on the protesters. They actually have done that, shooting two young activists. An innocent civilian, a 70-year-old cleaner, has died after being hit by a brick during a clash between residents and black-clad protesters.

How many more deaths before peace returns to our city? We used to be known as Asia's safest city, and now violence and chaos reign.

Our youth are angry and deeply frustrated. But I still believe they are the hope of Hong Kong, they still represent our future – contrary to the thinking of Annie Wu Suk-ching, daughter of Maxim’s founder James Wu Tak. 

Wu said she has lost hope in the city's next two generations, adding that she would not waste her time talking to them as they have no idea what they are doing.

No one knows how this saga will end, but for all their passion and idealism, for shaking the foundations of society, for challenging the concept of "one country, two systems", regardless of whether they are right or wrong, the student activists of Hong Kong deserve to be Time's "Persons of the Year".

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EJ Insight writer