HONG KONG—Amid the rainbow of stickers plastered on Joey Siu’s laptop, there are a few bold proclamations of her feelings on current events. Hong Kong is not China, one sticker reads. Another references the ancient Code of Hammurabi, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. HK police murder civilians.
Siu is the acting external vice president of the student union at the City University of Hong Kong, and were it not for the political crisis here, her role would be, even by her own admission, mundane—perhaps coordinating on-campus blood drives or tangling with the administration over plans to change the university’s logo.
Over the summer, however, students have been central to the demonstrations that have gripped Hong Kong. The tumult has once again put campuses near the forefront of this city’s protest movement—a position they have filled multiple times in decades past—and provided momentum for activism in secondary schools and universities, emboldening a new crop of student leaders such as Siu who may well follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and shape higher-level politics, too.
Hong Kong’s crisis began as an outpouring of anger and frustration triggered by a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China, which operates a separate and opaque judicial system. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, withdrew the bill earlier this month, meeting one, and arguably the easiest, of five demands laid down by protesters, which also include implementing universal suffrage. She and the Chinese leadership in Beijing appeared to have been betting that by addressing the initial cause of the protests, and doing so at a time when students return to school and are in theory unable to take part in some rallies, they would be able to drain the momentum from the demonstrations, which have taken place every weekend. A summer holiday of civil disobedience would, they believed, fizzle to an end.