Once again young people are making their voices heard at the global stage.
While the implications of the youth led Arab Spring Movement are still being sorted in several nations, young people in Hong Kong are standing up to challenge the seemingly absolute power of Beijing.
Joshua Wong, who turned 18 yesterday has emerged as one the iconic faces of the Hong Kong Occupy Movement. The skinny young man started his leadership career a couple of years ago when new rules were drafted to teach a new form of Patriotism. He disagreed with the decision and launched the Scholastics Movement designed to oppose changes to the curriculum. The government rescinded it’s plans and Joshua and his friends when back to their classrooms.
This time, however the stakes are much higher for the protests are directed at decisions made at the highest levels of government of both Hong Kong and China. Joshua was arrested for 40 hours and his detention stirred a response which has brought tens of thousands blocking traffic in one of the worlds most important financial hubs.
However, Joshua is just but one of the unprecedented number of people who have taken peacefully and in remarkable order to the streets demanding that the leaders of the nation live up to the commitments made when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997… the year Joshua was born.
In reality the chances of their success seem quite limited, after all soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are standing nearby ready to follow orders and fully capable to eliminating any dissent.
To understand the reckless behavior of the normally obedient and compliant young people of Hong Kong one must realize that they are standing up for the democratic process promised under the ideal of “One nation, two systems”. This was a solemn agreement signed by the highest representatives of both China and Great Britain.
Secondly, it is important to recognize that in a very small nation with one of the highest population densities only the full freedoms of a democratic process would afford equal opportunities to the majority. Besides, even if they were allowed to vote for their chosen candidates, China would retain all power as Hong Kong can not make foreign policy decisions and does not have an army.
Thirdly and perhaps of equal importance is the faith which drives Joshua and his friends. As followers of the way of Jesus, they look to the future full of hope and expectation. Furthermore they are clearly motivated by a unparalleled commitment to love their neighbors as they love themselves. This is what explains their rejection of violence as a tool and their unwavering respect for authority.
At a time of increasing political apathy these youthful protestors of Hong Kong are presenting us with a great challenge and a practical model to let our voices be heard.
The question are, are we listening? And will we take steps to also respond to the injustices in our communities?