Hong Kong protests: Why student groups are speaking out against the extradition bill

Hong Kong protests: Why student groups are speaking out against the extradition bill

Teenagers call for class boycotts in support of the anti-government demonstrations and explain that they worry about the future of the city

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Secondary students from all over Hong Kong took part in a student-led anti-extradition bill rally last Thursday.
Photo: Joanne Ma

Hundreds of lights shone across Edinburgh Place last Thursday evening, as students held up their phones and sang Do You Hear the People Sing? – one of the rallying calls of the extradition bill protests.

Students from many schools had come together for, as they put it, the future of Hong Kong.

“We want to show the world that we, students, walk with all Hongkongers,” said a 17-year-old surnamed Wan. “The movement’s slogan, ‘Revolution of our time’, shows we [have had] an awakening. We’ve entered a new age.”

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Over the past two weeks, various student concern groups have started calling for class boycotts. Young Post spoke to some students to learn about why they’re calling for such actions.

The groups are eager to point out that they care about social issues, and that they do not represent the political stance of their schools.

Wan is part of the group from Methodist Church Hong Kong Wesley College. It had planned to walk out of the school’s commencement ceremony on Monday – the first day of the new term. The school has cancelled the ceremony, but this has not deterred the group from pursuing other actions.

“We will skip classes,” Wan says. “We will hold other events at school during class hours.” He adds they have not ruled out the possibility of future class boycotts.


When asked what they want to achieve, Wan says the best-case scenario would be the government accepting the protesters’ five demands – a full withdrawal of the now-suspended extradition bill; a commission of inquiry into alleged police brutality; the retraction of the classification of protesters as “rioters”; amnesty for arrested protesters; and universal suffrage for both the Legislative Council and chief executive elections. However, he doesn’t have high hopes of this happening.

 

“I don’t think a school boycott will [change much]. However, it is a good opportunity for us to express our political stance in a peaceful way.”

Lee, a 17-year-old True Light Middle School of Hong Kong student, says there are 10 people on their school’s “informative page team” – which acts as a bridge between the school and its students.

In June, after consulting their principal, Lee and some of her fellow students took part in two class boycotts. “Our headmistress said, as long as we handed in personal leave letters, we could take part in strikes outside school.” Next month, the school plans to continue this policy.

A Lennon Wall – boards filled with messages by protesters – will also be set up by the school, but students will have to add their names to the notes.

Students leaving messages on the Lennon Wall set up next to City Hall last Thursday. A lot of them also plan to incorporate the wall to their school campus as school resumes.
Photo: Joanne Ma

The school has also promised that students taking part in class boycotts will not be punished, as it “does not intend to be students’ enemy”.

Another concern group has been set up in a school in Wan Chai, and the students do not wish to reveal the school name.

“In our group, some were active fighters on the frontline, and some have been making posters and writing articles,” says Chan, 16. “We all share the same goal: we’re all fighting for our future.”

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Another student from the same school, Leung, says he thinks young people play such an important role in the protests because they have a lot of free time.

“When you have a family, there are more [consequences] if you want to take part in civil disobedience,” he says. “There might be other concerns for you if you attend protests.”

When asked about the future of Hong Kong, Leung is uncertain.

“I think the city is headed towards a direction that’s worse than, say, 20 years ago. Still, I believe there’s a chance for us to make life better … no one could have, for example, predicted that the Berlin Wall in Germany [which divided the country’s capital city from 1961 to 1989] would eventually come down … I just feel I have a responsibility to take part in this movement.”

The school’s group says they will probably hold a class boycott on Tuesday, and spend the first day back at school distributing black masks on campus.

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A concern group at Lui Cheung Kwong Lutheran College, in Tuen Mun, was also at the rally.

“Our school has a Liberal Studies board,” says a 15-year-old student surnamed Chu. “It’s been there since June, and it’s like a Lennon Wall.”

The 27-strong group are preparing for a strike on Monday, but stress their boycott is not about skipping school – it’s about providing information to their classmates. Chu believes their school is not very supportive of their actions.

“We’ve tried to hand out white ribbons at school, but we weren’t allowed to – even though our principal has said we have the right to express our political stances. The school said we could just bring our own [ribbons] if we want to
take part.”

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