Dozens of students gathered on the Diag Wednesday afternoon to show solidarity with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The silent rally was one of over 50 on college campuses around the United States. The group is part of the global movement to raise awareness of the protests in Hong Kong, “United for Democracy: Global Solidarity for Hong Kong,” which started at Harvard University. Rackham student Anthony Ip and LSA junior Chris Cheung created the University’s chapter, also taking charge of organizing and publicizing the protest.
Tension has been growing in Hong Kong since China decided not to give Hong Kong full autonomy in 2017, as the country promised it would back in 1997 as part of an agreement to reassume sovereignty over the island from the United Kingdom. On Sunday, protests escalated after clashes with police officers using tear gas and pepper spray resulted in 41 injuries.
Louisa Lim, a visiting professor of journalism at the University, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times Monday comparing the protests to the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989, where the Chinese army was also deployed and used violence toward protesters. She added that the tension stems from not just gaining autonomy, but from the “gaping inequality” in the region, said to be rigged by government policies.
“As students and activists faced off with riot police amid the canyons of skyscrapers, one popular chant was simply, ‘Hong Kong People! Hong Kong People!’” she wrote.
Ip said the goals of the event were to share the stories of mainly student protesters in Hong Kong with the campus community, support the civilians fighting for true democracy in a peaceful way and to speak out against police brutality.
“We want to speak out globally to share, to make the whole world know what’s going on in Hong Kong,” he said.
Though no student group on campus officially sponsored the event, members from across the campus community came out to show their support. During the rally, students stood on the steps of Hatcher to sing the chorus of Les Miserables’ song “Do You Hear the People Sing?”
Cheung said the rally did not intend to take a stance on the issue or politically sway the public. The students wanted to support the largely peaceful protesters fighting for a cause they believe in and rebuke the officers preventing them from doing so.
“The thing is that the protesters in Hong Kong are peaceful, are unarmed. We just want to get the voice out that why are you using violence?,” Cheung said.
Law student Brian Wong came to the event to show his support for the spirit of Hong Kong’s fight for democracy. Though the political future of Hong Kong remains uncertain, he hopes that through rallying and bringing awareness for universal suffrage, the rest of the world will help the protesters achieve their goals.
“The more international awareness, the more pressure there is on the Chinese government and the Hong Kong government to do something about it.”