More than 200 people participated in Hong Kong's second Greta Thunberg-inspired School March for Climate Action in Hong Kong today. According to the police, there were 250 people at its peak.
The march was hosted by School Strike Hong Kong for Climate Action. The student-led march is part of the global Fridays For Future movement, started by 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg.
While most students across the globe skipped school for the same cause on Friday, May 24, the Hong Kong organisers chose to hold the march on a Sunday instead, to avoid clashing with exams and lessons, and encourage more people to attend.
“We had hoped that the turnout would be similar [to the last strike], and expected about 1,000 people to show up," student organiser, Ewan Windebank, told Young Post.
"Unfortunately due to the poor weather and the fact that we could only announce today’s march very late, the turnout was much less,” the 16-year-old explained.
The Thunderstorm warning and Amber Rainstorm Warning Signal were issued at 9.35am and 10.40am respectively by the Hong Kong Observatory. Both signals were later cancelled after the end of the march.
The organisers had some issues trying to secure permits for the protest, and only received confirmation from the police on Wednesday, May 22.
The activists gathered at Luard Road, Wan Chai at 10.30am. The march set off at 11am, and while it was initially meant to finish at the Central Government Complex in Admiralty at 1pm, it finished an hour earlier.
“The police shortened the march route, so we took the footbridge from Admiralty to LegCo, instead of walking on the road,” said Ewan.
The bad weather didn't dampen the marchers spirits, though. Students, parents, and environmental organisation representatives enthusiastically carried signs and banners, yelling “What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!
Five students delivered speeches at the end of the march, in a display of unity between local and internationals schools.
Local school students Renee Lui Wing-yan and Lai Tin-long delivered their speech together, in both Cantonese and English. When asked if the pouring rain was an issue, both of them said it had only proved how determined they - and all the other participants - were to urge the government to take action and fight the climate crisis.
“We want to raise awareness about the extreme weather, and this is [exactly] what it looks like!” said 16-year-old Tin-long. The Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Secondary School student added that they have also set up an Instagram page called Fridays For Future Hong Kong, hoping to raise awareness on climate crisis. “Many local students are not aware of how urgent the problem is,” he said.
The duo also told Young Post they had tried to invite their peers to join today's protest. “But a lot of them said they had to attend classes, or prepare for tests and exams,” said 17-year-old Renee from Sacred Heart Canossian College.
Maxine Ying, 16, from South Island School said she was inspired by one of Greta Thunberg’s public speeches, and gave an impromptu speech today to empower her peers.
“I’m here today to show Hong Kong people we won’t stand for [the lack of climate action], and they shouldn't either,” she said.
Greenpeace student representative, Cheng Tik-man said that he joined the march to raise awareness among the general public. "I want to voice my dissatisfaction about extreme climate change caused by us and the government,” he said.
The 18-year-old also added that he didn’t join the first school strike on March 15 because he wasn’t aware of the event. “I think there should have been a larger promotion by environmental organisations like Greenpeace.”
Tik-man believes that holding the protest on a Sunday rather than Friday would allow more students and adults who work during the week to join the march.
Maxine, however, believes a school strike would have a bigger impact: “A strike shows that students are willing to sacrifice a day of school to create a sense of greater urgency."
The first Hong Kong strike was supported by more than a thousand people - including students, teachers and parents - on Friday, March 15. Globally, more than 1.8 million students took to the streets on the same day to call for stronger government action against the climate crisis.
One of the organisers Zara Campion, 17, earlier told Young Post the second march was scheduled on a Sunday instead of a Friday to avoid clashing with exams and schools, hoping it would allow more local students to join the worldwide movement.
Renee agreed the change should have encouraged more of her peers to join the march, saying, “for local school students, skipping schools could result in very serious penalties."