Siu Lam, 20, has been involved in the Hong Kong protest movement since June, when a million people took to the streets to oppose plans to allow extradition to mainland China. Lam, who was dubbed a “foul-mouthed girl” by a pro-Beijing newspaper, is currently on a tour of major capitals as part of the diplomatic face of the protest movement, which is now also demanding fully democratic elections in Hong Kong, an independent inquiry into police violence, an end to the official use of the term ‘rioting,’ and the dropping of criminal charges against all arrested protesters. She spoke to RFA’s Cantonese Service during her trip to Washington:
Before the movement started, I was just doing what countless other university students did: going to class, working a part-time job, going to [orientation] camp, going out and having fun with my friends, enjoying campus life. But I was also studying politics, and I had always been interested in current affairs, and I was an officer in the public administration society. In June, I was elected to a post in the [City University] student union, and then I started to take part in the anti-extradition movement in my capacity as student representative.
It’s very hard for me to describe the exact motivation that made me pour so much of my time and energy into such things, but really it was out of love for Hong Kong, to put it in an old-fashioned way. I used to tell myself that if I loved this city so much, that I should get up and do something, and be willing to take it on the chin to protect what I loved. And if somebody was trying to turn my home into a different kind of place, that I should stand up and oppose it along with everybody else, regardless of the cost, if I loved it that much.
My family were very unsupportive, because most of our families thought that while fighting for freedom and democracy was great, they didn’t want it done by their own sons and daughters. Especially when a lot of student leaders and protesters started to get threatening letters. I think they were very worried about my safety, especially as a lot of my personal details were getting passed around on Facebook, Weibo, WeChat and other platforms by pro-China types. Then they started to think it would be better if I let other people take part instead. But I think their lack of support stemmed from concern rather than anything else. My friends were more supportive, and they just told me to stay safe, because things were getting pretty serious during the Hong Kong protests, and the police were arresting people. Then came the attacks on student and civic society leaders on Aug. 31 [by pro-China thugs]. My friends would accompany me home if I was going to get home too late.
In the past, Hong Kong women were seen in a pretty negative light. We were said to love money, to be high maintenance, hypercritical and demanding. But through the anti-extradition movement, I have seen so many young women take their places on the front line, helping others with no regard for the cost to themselves. Hong Kong women of all ages have been standing up, so I think we have broken through that image of us now. I’ve seen so many of us extinguishing tear gas canisters on the front line, getting tired and dirty as they stand on the front line [to protect fellow protesters from riot police].
I will still call myself a Hong Kong woman, but I think we’ve definitely cast off that old image now.
Reported by Fok Leung-kiu for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.