Opinion

Hong Kong protests: what it’s really like to be a young woman amidst the nation's political unrest

Protests have been held in Hong Kong for roughly a year now. A young woman born and raised in the region tells Stylist why she intends to leave as soon as possible. The proposed extradition bill caused great concern for her and her family and, sadly, she doesn’t feel safe or protected in her home any more. 

I’m sure everyone around the world is wondering what’s really going on in Hong Kong at the moment. There’s the proposed extradition bill which would give the Chinese government the power to remove citizens accused or convicted of a crime from the region, and punish them in China by whatever means they please. It sparked protests that have been going on since last year and highlighted deep political frustrations and raised demands for democracy within Hong Kong. 

Though the bill was withdrawn, it has changed my life in ways I would never have imagined. As someone who was born and raised in Hong Kong, for the first time ever, I am considering leaving with my family to live in a safer country.

I remember the day I found out about the bill on the news, it was 3 April 2019. Changes to the government were made after a Hong Kong man killed his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan. The Chinese government is convinced that because this one person had committed such an awful crime, which I condemn myself, it justifies painting everyone here with the same brush. I believe this murder destroyed the government’s public image, they had no control over it and this is why they are being so strict with everyone now. We always knew our government was very problematic but things have taken a real turn recently.

This has triggered protests in Hong Kong, with young people especially leading the marches. We are fighting for our future and the future of our children. I hope they grow up in a safe and comfortable environment unlike what we are currently battling with now. Those who are protesting are incredibly inspiring but I can’t be on the frontline marching along. I do not want my parents to worry about me, they already have many things to worry about including my health which took a turn last year. 

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I do not feel safe here and I do not feel free to voice my opinion. If you say or post something negative about China on social media, you may face serious repercussions. I have seen many cases of this, for example, a young man who was among the protestors spoke anonymously on a radio interview about being beaten up by the Chinese police and how he was forced not to speak about the injustices he saw or they would hurt his family and friends in Hong Kong. His words struck me and the fear kept on growing inside me.

In addition, a few young activists have accused the police of sexual assault. These claims were made through a local radio station, however, the police quickly shut down these strong and powerful women. The anger and fear piled up on me when I heard about it. Instead of protesting or speaking out against the awful stories around me, I chose to stay quiet. I did not want to risk losing the education that I’ve worked so hard for, losing my parents and my future. 

I think the government here is silencing people because they want to show their ‘best side’ to other foreign countries. Foreigners are not able to see the real damages that are occurring here, which means long term trade agreements and economy plans will continue to prosper.

If I speak out, we will lose everything; and when I say ‘everything’, it means everything. The government says that those who participate in the Hong Kong protests will be banned from entering China and their top universities. I have always wanted to study medicine here so it is best to stay quiet about my opinions regarding the extradition bill. However, with everything that’s going on, I am starting to rethink my life plans. 

My parents and I are planning a way to get out of Hong Kong as soon as possible. Recently I have helped them apply for the British National Overseas passports which will give me an opportunity to live in the UK or go to Australia and become a citizen there. I think foreign countries are much safer. Before Covid-19, I was working at the hospital part-time to help patients but in order to prevent further spread of the virus part-time workers have been made redundant. I hope to pursue a career in the medical field and continue helping others around me, as I write this I’ve just received a letter of acceptance from a university in the UK which is promising.

Images: Getty