AU students react to ongoing protests in Hong Kong
Viral livestream in support for Hong Kong protesters gets AU students’ attention
Three AU students made headlines for their Hong Kong protest gone viral during a livestream of an online video game tournament on Oct. 8.
AU students’ reactions to this livestream, as well as to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, have been varied. Several students from China said that there is a spectrum of opinions across campus on the topic, from wholehearted support to cautious hesitation.
“I’m not sure everyone involved knows the history of Hong Kong or the background between Hong Kong and China, but they want to say ‘free Hong Kong’ before they have all the knowledge,” said Jiatong Ban, a sophomore in the School of International Service from Hebei, China.
Protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing since June, in reaction to the proposed bill that would allow for criminal suspects from Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China. The bill has been suspended, but protests have persisted.
The political movement has made its way into the gaming world, where a Hearthstone player was suspended for a protest in support of Hong Kong during his victory interview. His protest landed him in hot water with the gaming company Blizzard, which suspended him and revoked all prize money.
At the center of backlash towards Blizzard were three AU student gamers: Casey Chambers, Corwin Dark and their teammate who prefers to go by his online name, TJammer. During their livestream, the players held up a sign that read “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz.” The sign was placed directly in front of the camera for thousands of viewers to see.
“Cory next to me had the sign under the table,” said Chambers, a sophomore in SIS. “He handed it to me when we realized the game was over.”
He recalled feeling an obligation to make this statement. “If they’re going to go out on the street and risk arrest and being beaten by the police, at the very minimum what three American college students can do is protest on a webcam.”
He encouraged other AU students to join the movement. “Find what protest is best for you … Do what you can do,” he said.
Ban said that she sees why AU students would want to get involved with the protests.“Not all Hong Kong protestors are wrong, I know there are some reasons they’d like to stand up for their rights,” Ban said.
Xueyan Xia, a sophomore from Anhui, China studying film and media, had similar thoughts. She acknowledged an understanding of the desire to protest, but also a hesitation to assume the facts of the situation.
“Freedom of press is not really a thing in China, that’s a fact and we can't deny that,” Xia said. “In the mainland-Chinese newspapers, they report police officers getting injured by protestors, but in the newspapers here they say the protestors are the ones getting badly injured. They are totally opposite to each other.”
Both students compared the Hong Kong protests to the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. Ban said that learning about this incident in her Chinese Politics and Foreign Policy class at AU made her more sympathetic towards the protestors.
“I started to see the Hong Kong issue from a new way, why the protesters wanted to stand up and say ‘Free Hong Kong,’” Ban said.
Xia said that both incidents have murky details with differing narratives.
“It doesn’t appear in the textbooks, but we had heard about it from elders who had actually been in that event,” Xia said. “It’s a totally different version of the story compared to the American one.”
Both Ban and Xia emphasized their recognition for other students rights to stand with the Hong Kong protestors, but also urged for a balance and acknowledgment that not all the facts of the situation are present.
“I just ask them to research the history and deeper things between Hong Kong and mainland China,” Ban said.