New Year's Day, for most young people, is a time to celebrate - but not for Chow Nok-hang. He got together with online friends and joined a protest against what he believes is social injustice. Along with thousands of other protesters, Chow and his friends marched from Causeway Bay to the central government liaison office in Western District, where they later scuffled with police while attempting to break through a cordon protecting the building. The march was organised by pan-democratic parties, but the protesters were mostly young people like Chow who met each other through internet forums and communicate using online messaging. The New Year's Day marchers called for the release of jailed mainland dissident Liu Xiaobo , the scrapping of the functional constituencies from the Legislative Council and full democracy for Hong Kong in 2012. Chow, a 25-year-old who works in a travel agency, became well known on internet forums after organising two hunger strikes with a dozen friends he met online - one to commemorate last year's 20th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and another to call for full democracy in Hong Kong. Street protests have traditionally been organised by political parties, concern groups and the middle classes, but recently young people have been taking the lead and are becoming more outspoken on social issues. On December 27, 21 activists, mostly in their 20s, protested at Lo Wu immigration control point in support of dissident Liu. In another event, hundreds of young people surrounded the Legislative Council on December 18 to support villagers who will have to relocate to make way for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link. Pan-democrats on the Legco Finance Committee succeeded in holding up funding of the project. The protesters said they felt they had to do something to show their determination to preserve the village and stop the government spending such a huge sum of money - HK$66.9 billion - on the railway. Chan Bing-fung, a 21-year-old student at Chinese University, joined the protest against the high-speed railway, even though it will not affect her. She learned about the plight of the villagers via online discussion groups and felt the urge to oppose something she says she believes is unfair. 'The villagers are set to lose their homes because of the project. This is a very hard time for them,' she says. 'I may not be able to change this. But I want to express my views and show my support. I also hope my actions can help to bring public attention to an important issue.' Again, the campaign against the railway was initiated by young people, aged from their early 20s to 30s who post on internet forums, on which they write about social issues. Six young people came together in the same way to stage a four-day protest walk in five districts to call for a halt to the railway project. Chow, who also joined the December 18 protest, said that while many young people today have opinions about social issues, they lack ways of expressing their views to the authorities. 'Twenty-somethings have more to say these days than in the past. Their views can influence society,' he said. He believes that instead of joining campaigns organised by political parties, young people's voices can be better heard if they organise actions themselves. 'There are limitations with political parties. Young people often hold different views from them. Many politicians act simply to get votes. We don't have any ties with political parties.' Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said young people have become more concerned about social issues because they have access to so much more information on the internet than they did in the past. He said the success of previous rallies, such as the July 1, 2003 protest, which led to the resignation of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, also showed young people that their voices and actions can bring about change. This was set to change the culture of protest among Hongkongers, Choy said. 'The turnout of the middle classes and professionals on the New Year's Day protest dropped dramatically compared with the two similar protests in 2004 and 2005. This year's protest was dominated by youngsters. This shows that young people are beginning to take the lead in street rallies,' he said.