On Friday March 15th 2019, close to a thousand students in Hong Kong protested to urge government authorities to take action on climate change. Youth environmentalists in the city skipped school and marched from Chater Garden in Central to the government’s headquarters in Admiralty.
The rally was a part of an international day of planned climate justice protests by students around the world. Student movements have since sprung up globally, with tens of thousands of youths participating in climate strikes across more than 125 countries. Youth environmentalists in Asian cities have also taken part in the series of climate protests, including Shanghai, Hangzhou, Taipei and Taoyuan City. Latest figure show the total number of protesters acrosss the globe at over 1.5 million.
The protests are part of a global youth movement known as #FridaysforFuture which began in September 2018 when 16-year old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunburg skipped her classes to sit outside government buildings in protest of the Swedish authorities’ failure to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.
For her incredible efforts, Thunberg has been nominated for a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Guardian, “We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees,” said Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy André Øvstegård.
As an island city, the far-reaching consequences of climate change will have immediate effects on Hong Kong. In addition to rising sea levels caused by carbon emissions that have increased the earth’s temperature year on year, climate change will also bring in increasingly extreme weather patterns. For instance, mega-storms like Typhoon Mangkhut causing damage and destruction is likely to be a more frequent occurrence.
Youth organisers in Hong Kong published a statement earlier on Wednesday with a range of demands. It urged the government to commitment to using more renewable energy. It also pressured the government to include youth members in the Steering Committee on Climate Change, an interdepartmental environmental action group, and establish a “Climate Action Officer”.
Notably, the Hong Kong government did not issue any official comment on the protests, as observed by local environmental activist and photojournalist Alex Hofford in an tweet:
Student co-organiser of the event Haruka Cheung told the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) that student representatives were important because it can include the voices of those who are not yet able to vote in local elections.
Participating students voiced their concern for climate change through holding signs such as “There is no planet B” and chanting various slogans regarding environmental changes that pose a threat to our world. The march was also supported by environmental NGOs, such as Friends of the Earth Hong Kong and Greenpeace.
“I went to the strike today because I am very passionate about saving our planet. I have been vegetarian for 7 years, made a website about plastic in the ocean, and have tried my best to minimize my carbon footprint. When I heard about the strike I was immediately drawn and wanted to be part of it. I also thought it would be a great learning opportunity and I would have fun with my friends and family that joined,” 14 year old Hong Kong student Malu told Green Queen.
Chairperson of Friends of the Earth Hong Kong Mei Ng said: “All over the world the inertia and the inaction over the decision to tackle climate change is unacceptable and unethical.”
The turnout of student protesters in Hong Kong and globally reflects the urgency for more radical legislative action against climate change. Youths are especially concerned because it is likely that their generation, and future generations ahead will experience the negative impact of climate threats if authorities do not prioritise the issue.
Lead image credit Roz Keep, otherwise as captioned.
See photos of the Student Climate Strikes from across the world.