After Hong Kong’s top leader responded coldly to an impassioned plea by student protesters, another two students went on hunger strike on Wednesday.
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) December 3, 2014
Three students — Joshua Wong, 18; Isabella Lo, 18; Prince Wong, 17 — from the student group Scholarism started a hunger strike on Monday, Dec. 1, in a bid to force the Hong Kong government to restart talks on democratic reform with student protesters.
The trio, who are only drinking plain water, will eat again when the government agrees to negotiate.
“We admit that it’s difficult in the future to have an escalated action, so besides suffering from batons and tear gas, we would like to use our bodies to direct public attention to the issue,” Joshua Wong said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
In the last week of November, the authorities dealt the over two-month long Umbrella Movement a serious setback by demolishing a key protest site in Mong Kok, and also prevented pro-democracy demonstrators from surrounding government offices to paralyze the city’s administration. Police violence towards protesters and the press in both clearings is now a major talking point.
Wong, a prominent figure in the leaderless Umbrella Movement, added: “We are not sure if the hunger strike can put pressure on the government, but we hope that when the public realizes the student hunger strike, they will ask themselves what they can do next.”
However, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told the press on Tuesday that the government won’t give in to students’ demands and added that they should “take care.”
In response, the Scholarism trio published an open letter to the Beijing-backed leader on Wednesday. The students claimed that the citizens of Hong Kong are aware of the hunger strike and will eventually join them. They also reminded Leung of his privileged position and his duty as the city’s leader to “cater to the public needs and find a way out of the political crisis.”
The letter read: “The government can’t afford to pay the costly price of losing a generation of youngsters.”
In ending, the students told Leung to “shoulder some responsibility,” talk to them instead of advising against the hunger strike, and elevate the Hong Kong people from “illiberal and repressive lives.”
But Leung remained unmoved. In an official statement, Leung noted that “expressing views on constitutional reform through illegal and confrontational means is bound to be futile,” and that a dialogue with students to discuss reform is “impractical.”
In the evening, Isabella Lo told the protester crowd in Admiralty that if the hunger strike is really useless, then “why did [Leung] reply?”
Speaking from a makeshift podium in “Umbrella Square,” the protesters’ name for the Admiralty occupied area, Lo also reminded the Admiralty crowd that the government scrapped plans to introduce a Beijing-proposed “Moral and National Education” syllabus after demonstrators went on hunger strikes.
In 2012, students, parents and teachers carried out hunger strikes as part of protests against a subject that many decried as an attempt to “brainwash” the youth of Hong Kong with pro-CCP propaganda.
Prince Wong, who vomited 29 hours into the hunger strike and had to take medication, said she was suffering from headaches and felt weak, but will carry on fasting.
Later that night, Joshua Wong announced that two more Scholarism members, Gloria Cheng and Eddie Ng, both 20, will join the hunger strike.
Joshua Wong announces 2 more Scholarism members Ng Man Him and Gloria Cheng to join hunger strike. pic.twitter.com/OQVOJf2lG0
— TranslateUmbrellaMvt (@TranslateHK) December 3, 2014
According to the South China Morning Post, Ng, a Polytechnic University student, said: “It’s been 48 hours and still the government is unmoved. I’m joining to show support to my fellow members.”
“I believe without [Joshua’s] push, the movement may be forced to end, so I have to join in,” said Cheng, a politics and governance student at Chinese University Hong Kong. “Or else the past two months will be in vain having achieved nothing.”
Scholarism leader Joshua Wong also announced that the hunger strikers will take glucose water or end their fast upon medical advice if their health worsened.
“We want to let the public know that the hunger strike we’re on now is a serious one,” Wong said.
“We want to refocus the public attention on the Umbrella Movement.”