撰文：MIKE IVES, KATHERINE LI － 2019年6月18日 《紐約時報》
香港 ── 他們穿著黑色T恤，揮舞拳頭，走在香港悶熱的街道上，站在每一場遊行的前線。他們通過加密的信息群組織起來，在集會上分發頭盔和護目鏡。當警察向他們發射催淚瓦斯時，他們追上釋放著煙霧的瓦斯罐，用水澆滅它們。
至少有部分原因是恐懼。「誰會願意以公開接受六年監禁作為抗議活動的獎勵？」支持民主的香港立法會委員毛孟靜(Claudia Mo)表示。她指的是香港維權人士梁天琦(Edward Leung)去年因在2016年抗議者與警方的衝突中起到的作用而被判刑。
For Hong Kong’s Youth,
Protests Are ‘a Matter of Life and Death’
HONG KONG — They are on the front lines of every demonstration, dressed in black T-shirts and pumping their fists as they march through Hong Kong’s sweltering streets. They organize on encrypted messaging groups and hand out helmets and goggles at rallies. When the police fired tear gas at them, they chased the smoke-emitting canisters and doused them with water.
Hong Kong’s youth are at the forefront of protests this month that have thrown the city into a political crisis, including a vast rally on Sunday that was perhaps the largest in its history. Organizers contend that close to two million of the territory’s seven million people participated, calling on the government to withdraw proposed legislation that would allow extraditions to mainland China.
For the many high-school and university-age students who flooded the streets, the issue is much bigger than extradition alone. As they see it, they are fighting a “final battle” for some semblance of autonomy from the Chinese government.
“The extradition law is a danger to our lives,” said Zack Ho, 17, a high school student who helped organize a boycott of classes. “Once this passes, our rule of law would be damaged beyond repair.”
They are a generation that has no memory of life under British rule, but they have come of age amid growing fears about how the encroachment of China’s ruling Communist Party — and an influx of people from mainland China — are transforming Hong Kong and what they believe is special about it.
Such fears stem from the ousting of opposition lawmakers, the disappearance of several individuals from Hong Kong into custody in the mainland and the intensifying competition for jobs and housing in a city with soaring inequality. Many young protesters see the extradition bill as hurting the territory’s judicial independence — in their view, the last vestige of insulation they now have from Beijing’s influence.
Youth activism in Hong Kong had ebbed in recent years, after protests demanding a direct say in the election of the territory’s chief executive ended in failure in 2014. The most prominent leaders of what became known as the Umbrella Movement or Occupy Central were jailed, and their legions of young supporters were left bitterly disenchanted.
But the extradition legislation pushed by Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has re-energized young people. Residents express worry that Beijing will use new extradition powers to target dissidents and others who run afoul of Communist Party officials on the mainland.
The young people driving the Umbrella Movement fought for the cause of universal suffrage, said Leung Yiu-ting, the student union president of Hong Kong Education University. But the extradition fight, he added, is “a matter of life and death.”
Compared with older generations, young people in Hong Kong feel less affinity with mainland China and are more likely to see themselves as having a distinct Hong Kong — as opposed to Chinese — identity. Beijing’s efforts to grapple with this have backfired; when officials tried to impose a patriotic education curriculum in schools in 2012, young people led the protests against it.
That was the beginning of this generation’s political awakening, which has accelerated along with the erosion of the civil liberties promised to Hong Kong upon its return to Chinese government in 1997. Those freedoms have long set Hong Kong apart from the mainland, and as they have begun to fray, young people say they feel the threat more sharply.
No one has emerged as the face of the current youth movement as Joshua Wong, then 17, did during the Umbrella protests five years ago. (Mr. Wong was released from prison Monday after serving a month of his two-month prison sentence.)
That is at least in part because of fear. “Who’s going to be quite so willing, openly, to take six years of jail as the prize for the protests?” said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker, referring to a sentence handed down last year to Edward Leung, a local activist, for his role in a 2016 clash between protesters and the police.
Instead, organizers have operated behind the scenes by spreading messages about protests and other acts of civil disobedience through social media, word of mouth and secure messaging apps like Telegram.
One result was that high schoolers and university students turned out in large numbers at a mostly peaceful march one week ago Sunday, and also occupied a highway on Wednesday outside the Legislative Council. Medical students and other volunteers provided first aid and free supplies from makeshift tents.
“They are compromising our future, and for what?” Terrence Leung, a recent college graduate, who like many others was demonstrating on Wednesday in a black T-shirt and a surgical mask, said of the pro-Beijing lawmakers who championed the extradition bill.
But in both protests, some among the young demonstrators challenged the authorities with force. The demonstrators tried to occupy the area outside the Legislative Council — or, in Wednesday’s case, tried to storm the complex — with force, pushing metal barriers and tossing bricks, bottles and sticks at riot police officers.
The police responded with pepper spray and batons. On Wednesday, police also fired 150 canisters of tear gas and, for the first time in decades, rubber bullets. Videos of officers beating protesters and firing volleys of tear gas that sent thousands fleeing drew wide condemnation across the city.
Public anger only grew when Mrs. Lam compared her response to the opposition with that of a mother with a willful child.
Linda Wong, a barrister who organized a rally attended by women who described themselves as mothers opposed to how the police had responded to the young protesters, disagreed with Mrs. Lam’s characterization.
“They came out not for personal interests but for the greater ideal of Hong Kong,” said Ms. Wong. “A good mother shall listen to her own child, and apparently Carrie Lam refuses to do so.”
The police said Monday that 32 people have been arrested since Wednesday’s event, including five for rioting.
“Fear is striking in all of our hearts,” said Mr. Leung, the student union president, referring to the possibility of being prosecuted.
Another risk is that the leaderless nature of the movement raises the possibility of more bloodshed. Analysts say that if demonstrations descend into violence, the authorities would have an easy excuse to prosecute young protesters, discredit them as radicals or attack them with a vengeance.
“If I were them, I would be cautious not to press the advantage too far,” said Andrew Junker, a sociologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has studied the Umbrella Movement.
Faced with another enormous protest on Sunday, Mrs. Lam issued a public apology for causing so much anger over the extradition law. Her apology came a day after she promised to shelve the plan indefinitely, but not withdraw it.
This was perceived as too little, too late, and it especially enraged younger protesters, who were bewildered that Mrs. Lam seemed deaf to the concerns of more than a million demonstrators.
“Sometimes I think to myself, is it because I have not done enough? What else could have been done?” said So Hiu-ching, a 16-year-old high schooler who attended a student strike at a park near government offices on Monday morning.
“I go home and cry,” she said, “but after that, I have to get up and try to rally more people.”