Three environmental groups organised a climate “strike” in Hong Kong this afternoon, despite the absence of an official student strike due to the ongoing protests in the city.
About 40 people – mostly activists, parents, and some students – gathered at Pier 9 in Central at noon to show their support for the Greta Thunberg-inspired #FridaysForFuture global strike, set to take place in more than 1,500 cities worldwide today.
Dhanada Mishra, a volunteer from Extinction Rebellion HK, one of the organising groups of today’s march, said that it was a pity that the protests put a halt to the student activists’ plans today.
“I understand why [the students] cancelled today’s strike, and I commend the [anti-government] protesters too, because you do need a free society to champion for social causes such as climate change,” he says.
“We are standing in solidarity with the school students who will be taking to the streets to strike. It’s absolutely amazing what they are doing,” he says. “They are so impressive in the way that they are appealing to the government because of their sincerity and dedication. They will be affected the most.”
Li Ka-chun, a 19-year-old university student, skipped classes today to attend the gathering.
“While not a lot of students are striking, I have chosen to because we need to fight for stronger legislation,” she says.
“I think just by participating and taking photographs, and spreading awareness, we can all do our part.”
In Sydney and Melbourne, crowds were estimated at 80,000 to 150,000 respectively, making it the biggest demonstration in the country since the Iraq war. In Tasmania, 22,000 marchers took to the streets, making it the biggest strike action the state had ever seen, according to The Guardian.
Meanwhile, siblings Nora, nine, and Jan, seven, were among the handful of students that skipped class to attend the gathering in Hong Kong.
“Climate change is an important thing, not just for us, but for everyone in the world,” Nora says. “If we act now, we might be able to reverse the effects of climate change.”
Her brother, Jan, agrees, and has pledged not to use much plastic and to eat less meat.
“I am also spreading awareness by protesting today,” he says.
Ringo Mak Wing- hoi from 350HK said that more than 600 people gathered at Pier 9 five years ago to call for stronger government action against climate change.
“It’s disappointing that in five years, so little has been done,” he says.
The group chanted slogans and held banners against the backdrop of the harbour, to raise awareness to passers-by. At about 1pm, they began to march from the pier to Tamar Park.
At 3pm, Extinction Rebellion HK will host a "short and peaceful gathering" at The Education University of Hong Kong, to show their "concern for the Earth".
"This is an emergency, and an emergency situation requires everyone's attention," says Olivier Delalande, a member of Extinction Rebellion Hong Kong. "Our government must declare a climate and ecological emergency."
The three groups have proposed four demands for the government.
Extinction Rebellion’s three demands are:
1. Tell the Truth – The government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
2. Act Now – The government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
3. Beyond Politics – The government must support the forming of a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice, working alongside the government to clearly represent and communicate all Hongkongers’ needs for our city’s future in the face of this crisis.
James Marlow, the founder of Waste Free HK, added one more demand:
Animal Activism - Hong Kong people should reduce meat consumption, as modern farming for livestock has a huge impact on the environment.
The strike happens at the same time Hong Kong is experiencing very high levels of pollution, with the general public advised to limit their time outdoors.