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Hong Kong’s young people respond to political stalemate one year after Occupy

By Emily Man & Jayce Lai

Tears streamed down Jasmine Choi Yan-yan’s face when she was arrested in the forecourt outside government headquarters. At midnight on September 26, 2014, she and other youngsters had heeded the call from student leaders to break into Civic Square, as it is known, and “reclaimed” the space.

“I felt aggrieved for Hong Kong, it’s like we’re being bullied. What we did was justified,” says Choi, a 22-year-old fresh graduate from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, her voice still shaking as she recalls the most unforgettable night in her life.
It turned out to be the opening act in what became the 79-day Occupy Movement to demand fair and open elections by universal suffrage for the 2017 Chief Executive election. During the movement, Choi spent countless nights on the streets and ended up getting pneumonia.

After her arrest, Choi was denied access at the border to mainland China and questioned by officers in a tiny room for hours before being sent back to Hong Kong. Looking back, she feels that all her actions and sacrifices were useless.

“If the former Chief Executives had faced such a large-scale protest [Occupy Movement], they wouldn’t have been able to ignore it. But now they don’t care at all.”

The failure to win any concesssions from the government or from Beijing has left many young people in a quandary. Some have become more radical, some have given up on working for change, and yet others are trying to seek an alternative.

For her part, Choi has given up on the government but still sees a need to take action on political and social issues. She is no longer interested in sharing her opinions online or speaking out through established channels. Instead she says she will simply act.

For example, if the government builds the proposed third runway for the Hong Kong International Airport, Choi says she would take part in a sit-in at the construction site to stop the construction work. “They [the government] will never listen to criticisms, and the last resort is to block the excavator.”

Jasmine Choi Yan-yan was banned from visiting mainland after her arrest on September 26, 2014 at Civic Square
Jasmine Choi Yan-yan was banned from visiting mainland after her arrest on September 26 2014 at Civic Square