Exile Nathan Law named in Time magazine influential people list

Exiled Hong Kong activist Nathan Law Kwun-chung has been named in the list of the 100 ‘most influential people’ in the US current affairs magazine, TIME.

In an introduction, former Hong Kong Governor, Chris Patten, says Law is one of the leaders of the generation of  young people in Hong Kong who oppose the crushing by Beijing of the rule of law and the liberties of an open society in Hong Kong.

“Xi Jinping and his apparatchiks have broken the promises made to Hong Kong about liberty and local autonomy. They see the values that have made Hong Kong such a glittering success story in Asia as an existential threat,” Patten writes.

Patten says Law “would not claim any pre-eminent status as a campaigner for democracy and freedom. He is simply a typically brave representative of a generation whose spirit the Communist Party wants to stamp out.”

TIME says that 54 of the people on the list are women, “more than ever before.”

The list also names world leaders, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Donald Trump, President Xi Jinping, German Angela erkel, and also the WHO head  Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has been widely condemned by the United States for the deficient response to the coronavirus crisis that has wrecked the world’s economies, driven millions into poverty, and caused immense loss of life.

TIME has named Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, among activists, along with Arussi Unda, “a feminist leader who helped spearhead a national strike in Mexico to protest gender violence.”

Hong Kong Standard

Why Hong Kong activist Nathan Law is my hero

As I had coffee with my friend Nathan Law in London last week, he casually mentioned that he had been voted number one in TIME magazine’s readers’ poll of the top 100 most influential people in the world. At just 27, that is quite something.

Nathan is exceptional. At the age of just 23, he was elected Hong Kong’s youngest ever legislator. After only nine months in office, he was disqualified from Hong Kong’s legislature by a reinterpretation of the constitution demanded by the Chinese Communist Party regime in Beijing, for the simple reason that he quoted Mahatma Gandhi when he took his oath of office. A month later, he was sentenced to eight months in jail, for his role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

I first met Nathan in November 2016, when he came to London as a newly elected legislator and I was asked to help introduce him to his fellow Parliamentarians in Westminster. I was immediately struck by his deep modesty, humility, decency, poise and even normality — and yet a very apparent sense of mission. He combined an inner core of steel and determination, with an easy-going demeanour that made him much easier to talk with than many ambitious politicians. There was none of the brashness that goes with many politicians on the rise — and yet a gentle, profound wisdom and quiet self-confidence that far belied his years.

In August 2017, as I was in Indonesia for work, Nathan and his colleagues Joshua Wong and Alex Chow were on trial for their role in the Umbrella Movement three years earlier. As I sat in a Surabaya traffic jam — which anyone who knows Indonesia knows provides much thinking time — I thought about their trial and what might come. I knew my own commitment to Hong Kong’s struggle turned a corner there and then. I knew that it was no longer a spare-time interest, but a lifetime calling. And I knew that I could not do it alone, that I needed a team and an organisation. That was the genesis of the organisation I went on to co-found and build with colleagues, Hong Kong Watch.

A few days later, these three courageous activists were sentenced. I was on holiday in Bali by then. As soon as I heard the news, I knew someone needed to act. For a few seconds I thought: “someone needs to speak out, someone should organise a statement, someone should mobilise politicians”. With a somewhat heavy heart — both because I never wanted Hong Kong, the city which had been my home for the first five years after the Handover and because I had enough on my plate and was on holiday — it dawned on me. Perhaps that someone is me.

I left the beach, opened my computer, drafted a statement, emailed every dignitary I knew, and within 24 hours of Nathan, Joshua and Alex’s imprisonment, a statement signed by 25 international dignitaries was released. That statement, I am told, had more of an impact in Hong Kong than I expected. I continued to campaign for Nathan, Joshua and Alex, and a month or so later 12 leading international lawyers released a statement criticising their sentence. A short time later my three friends were released.

While Nathan, Joshua and Alex were in jail, I tried to visit Hong Kong. In October 2017, I was denied entry on the orders of Beijing — partially because they suspected, wrongly, that I was going to try to visit my three friends in prison. That was not the plan — but the result was that I could not even visit my friends in Hong Kong who were free. Nathan, Joshua and Alex were locked up, and I was locked out, and that will always be a bond that binds us together in spirit, though the price they paid for the cause of freedom was – and remains – significant, whereas mine is token.

The next time Nathan and I met was when he came to the United Kingdom a year later, at my invitation, together with the father of Hong Kong’s democracy movement Martin Lee and one of the organisers of Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy Movement — which morphed into the Umbrella Movement — Benny Tai.

Among the various political and public meetings that Nathan, Martin, Benny and I did together in October 2018, there was one that I think will remain in all our minds. At the Conservative Party Conference, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and Hong Kong Watch co-hosted an event chaired by the Member of Parliament Fiona Bruce, on Hong Kong.

Nathan, Benny, Martin and I all spoke, and then — just before we were about to conclude — we were disrupted by a Chinese state television journalist who screamed abuse at me, then at our three Hong Kong speakers, and then assaulted a volunteer when he politely suggested she sit down. Indeed, she slapped him three times, the final slap went viral on the Internet, and she was arrested and convicted of assault. So Nathan and I shared what became known as the “Kong Lin Lin Incident”.

Over the subsequent eighteen months, Nathan and I kept in touch from time to time, but I never expected to see the day when he would arrive in Britain as an exile. After Beijing imposed its national security law on Hong Kong, Nathan fled the city – knowing that the movement needed a voice in the outside world and that if he stayed, he and all his colleagues faced the prospect of jail.

Soon after Nathan arrived in London, we met. Indeed, Nathan was the first person I met for lunch with in a restaurant after our Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased. And after that lunch I took him to see the home of one of my political heroes, William Wilberforce, who was elected as a Member of Parliament aged 21 in 1780 — just two years younger than Nathan when he won his seat in Hong Kong’s legislature.

Wilberforce led what amounted to perhaps the first ever human rights campaign, against the slave trade. It took him more than 40 years, but year on year he introduced legislation to abolish slavery and, with the help of grassroots activists and a nationwide campaign, he chipped away at it until he succeeded. In one speech, Wilberforce said words that stay as my motto: “We can no longer plead ignorance, we cannot evade it … we cannot turn aside”.

Nathan already carries a heavy burden. And I don’t in any way want to add to his burdens or to raise expectations unfairly. But knowing Nathan, in his quiet, stable, quite remarkable decency — which I admired when we first met four years ago and which has only strengthened and grown since — is absolutely the Wilberforce of Hong Kong. He totally deserves the backing of TIME readers, both for himself and his own record and more importantly as a symbol of support for the entire movement for democracy for Hong Kong.

And if the Nobel Peace Prize Committee were wise enough to give this year’s award to the people of Hong Kong as a whole, as I and others have recommended, I can think of no worthier person to receive it on their behalf than Nathan Law.

As we finished our coffee in Islington, and after chatting about life in prison in Hong Kong, Nathan said he had to run because he had a football match. That’s the humanity of the guy. And that’s why he deserves the world’s applause — for his own character and work, and on behalf of his people. Whatever happens, he’ll always be my friend – and hero.

by BENEDICT ROGERS
HKFP


Nathan Law Kwun-chung (羅冠聰; born 13 July 1993) is an activist from Hong Kong. As a former student leader, he has been chairman of the Representative Council of the Lingnan University Students’ Union (LUSU), acting president of the LUSU, and secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS). He was one of the student leaders during the 79-day Umbrella Movement in 2014. He is the founding and former chairman of Demosistō, a new political party derived from the 2014 protests.

On 4 September 2016, at the age of 23, Law was elected to serve as a legislator for Hong Kong Island, making him the youngest lawmaker in the history of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. Over his controversial oath-taking at the Legislative Council inaugural meeting, his office was challenged by the Hong Kong Government which resulted in his disqualification from the Legislative Council on 14 July 2017.

Following National Security Law enacted by Beijing on 1 July 2020, Law announced he had moved to London, United Kingdom.

Law was included in Time magazine ‘s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

Law was born on 13 July 1993 in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, to a Hong Kong father and a Mainland mother. He moved to Hong Kong with his mother for a family reunion when he was around six years old.

Law was active in student activism and participated the 2013 Hong Kong dock strike. He joined and became the chairman of the Representative Council of the Lingnan University Students’ Union and was the committee member of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS). He later also became the acting president of the Lingnan University Students’ Union (LUSU).

Law, along with two other prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy student leaders Joshua Wong and Alex Chow, were jailed for six to eight months on 17 August 2017 for storming the Civic Square in 2014. The sentence, if held, would also have “halted their budding political careers”, as they are barred from running for public office for five years. Law was sent to the medium-security Tong Fuk Correctional Institution on Lantau Island.

On 24 October 2017 Nathan Law and Joshua Wong were granted bail by Hong Kong’s chief justice, Geoffrey Ma, while Alex Chow did not appeal for bail and continued serving his seven-month jail term.

On 1 February 2018, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers, led by Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Chair US Senator Marco Rubio and co-chair US Representative Chris Smith announced they had nominated Joshua Wong, Law, Alex Chow and the entire Umbrella Movement for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, for “their peaceful efforts to bring political reform and protect the autonomy and freedoms guaranteed Hong Kong in the Sino-British Joint Declaration”.

Hours after the promulgation of the new security law in Hong Kong enacted by Beijing on 30 June 2020, Nathan Law and the other leaders of Demosistō resigned from their offices and the party disbanded. On 2 July, he announced that he had left Hong Kong due to safety concerns.

On 3 July 2020, he testified before US Congress via video-conference (due to COVID-19 travel restriction) where he repeated his call for actions to be taken against Hong Kong & Mainland China for enacting a national security law for Hong Kong, an action which violates the said law.

Edited by staff

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