Students organize on-campus awareness campaign
Wellesley students came together to show support for ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last Wednesday. Although Wednesday was China’s National Day and a public holiday in Hong Kong, thousands of Hong Kongers were in protest of Beijing’s control over Hong Kong’s leadership.
Hong Kong was scheduled to have full universal suffrage in its 2017 elections for the chief executive. Beijing, however, maintains its right to determine candidates for the position. In response, on Sept. 22 of this year, university students in Hong Kong started to boycott classes and have since led ongoing protests on the streets.
After hearing the news from Hong Kong, a few Wellesley students decided to raise awareness about the issue on campus. On Wednesday, the students set up booths in both Pendleton Hall and the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They passed out yellow ribbons as they spoke about the events in Hong Kong.
“As foreign students and as students at Wellesley who believe in liberal traditions and democracy, and even student activism, it’s important that we do as much as we can to show Hong Kong students that the world is on their side,” said Tiffany Chung ‘17, one of the student leaders. “We want to make it clear, however, that this is a students for students movement. We’re not anti-China, we’re pro-Hong Kong students.”
Many in the Wellesley community had yellow ribbons pinned to their clothes, while others made a bolder statement of their support for democracy in Hong Kong by wearing yellow clothing.
“I think it’s important that all Wellesley students know what is happening because this could happen anywhere,” Yu Rong Lim ’18 said. “This is a global issue, not one particular to Hong Kong.”
The leaders of the event also ran a photo campaign. As students picked up a yellow ribbon, they were also given the option of having a photo taken of them holding up signs with different slogans on them such as “Wellesley stands with Hong Kong” and “We stand with Hong Kong.” The photos will be uploaded to a national Tumblr collecting photographs of students and people living abroad who support the protesters in Hong Kong.
“We’re trying to show students in Hong Kong that even though we’re not in the square with them, we’re with them in spirit,” Chung said.
The event led by Chung and other students was well attended. They handed out hundreds of ribbons, running out of ribbons by the end of the day, and took almost 100 photos for the national tumblr. The Facebook event that the organizers created, “Stand Up for Hong Kong,” had more than 150 attendees.
“I think the campaign is brilliant. I am always really inspired by how college students seem to be the most politically active,” AnnaJoy Gillis ’15 said.
Although the event seems to have had positive feedback, Chung said they took precautions in the campaign.
“We’re trying to make ourselves as vocal as possible on campus without offending people, because we understand that this is a sensitive issue, and there are people who disagree with us,” Chung said.
The organizers also led a trip later that day to Boston Commons to join the Bostonians and students from other universities who were also supporting the protestors.
“I was surprised by how many people showed up,” said Amanda Hui ’15, a resident of Hong Kong. “Of the people who I spoke to tonight, there were a lot of people who were not from Hong Kong but who still came out. It was very touching.”
With yellow ribbons, candles, signs and umbrellas, hundreds gathered together despite the drizzle and walked to the Stater International House to tie yellow ribbons to the gate.
“The more people gather together, the more of an impact we can have. I want to let those in Hong Kong know that we support them,” said Lim, who was raised in Hong Kong.
The student leaders have also collaborated with faculty and will hold a faculty panel on the issue on Thursday, Oct. 9,at 12:30 p.m. in Pendleton Atrium. Professors from the political science, East Asian languages and cultures and sociology departments will speak at the panel.
Professor Song, one of the faculty panelists, has been very supportive of the campaign on campus.
“I think the purpose of education is to give our students the information, the knowledge of what is happening in the world,” Song said, “It’s not about whether you like it it or not, but at least you should know about it.