Agnes Chow, Leader of the Umbrella Movement and Scholarism
Students played a huge part in the Umbrella Movement. Agnes Chow served as a central member of Scholarism, a student activist group that stood up demanding democracy in the 2014 Chief Executive election. We asked her about the Umbrella Movement, her plans to awaken democracy in Hong Kong, and her ambitions with the new political party, Demosisto, which she began.
The Role of Students in the Umbrella Movement
Agnes Chow: Spokesperson for student activist group Scholarism, which was a leading organization in the Umbrella Movement.
Interviewer (I): What were your reasons for joining the Umbrella Movement, and what role did the students play in it?
Chow (C): My main reason for joining was because I saw Hong Kong’s freedom being invaded by China. Some bookstore owners disappeared a few months ago. I thought that if we do not act, the Hong Kong and Chinese governments would further deprive us of freedom, so the people must fight and uphold our defiance.
I think that teens and youth make a huge effect in politics, because we are also Hong Kong citizens. But I can’t do this alone. People of many groups such as the trade union gathered to fight together for freedom and democracy.
A significant incident was when the Hong Kong police fired tear gas. It was their way of telling us that there is no other democracy for the Hong Kong people than the style of ‘democracy’ adopted in China. This prompted many additional people who would have otherwise fled, to join the movement.
Political Repercussions from Joining the Movement
I: Did you face difficulties during the Umbrella Movement?
C: Hong Kong police arrested me right after the Umbrella Movement. They arrest pro-democracy activists but they don’t arrest pro-Beijing people even when they cause a riot. They are heavily influenced by political decisions. My family has also been a victim of harassment, so I had to step down from being the spokesperson of Scholarism. After experiencing political pressure, however, I realized that it was meaningless to worry about it. They pressure us to shut us up, but we are fighting for the freedom and democracy of Hong Kong. Political pressure does not give us a reason to stop the struggle.
The Birth of Demosisto
I: You are planning to found a new political party.
C: Yes. It is called Demosisto. Our aim is to conduct a referendum in deciding Hong Kong’s future, and to do so within the next 10 years. I would like the referendum to decide whether Hong Kong will remain under the “One Country, Two Systems” or become a “One Country, One System” or even become “Independent”. The people of Hong Kong have a right to decide their own future, and not be subjected to the will of the Chinese government. It is now 2016, and the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong government are trying to steal our freedom, so we cannot wait until 2047: we want to know what the public is wanting now.
I: Recently, the Hong Kong government tried to stop the independence movement by announcing that independence goes against Hong Kong basic law.
C: The more they do this the more the people of Hong Kong will rally. We know that we are doing the right thing when we receive criticism from the Hong Kong government.
The Goal of International Activism
I: Are you thinking of a joint struggle along with nearby countries?
C: Other countries in Asia, such as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, are also facing the threat of the Chinese government. I think it is very important that activists in those countries share their opinions and experiences to learn from each other.
Hope for the Future
I: How do you see the future of Hong Kong?
C: The future of Hong Kong depends on what we do now. If the Hong Kong people connect and fight together, I think we can realize the future we are hoping for.