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Hong Kong Students Make Personal, Professional Sacrifices To Protest


Hong Kong's chief executive admitted today that it looks like the pro-democracy protests that have gripped the city could go on for some time. Student organizers say they will keep boycotting classes until the government responds to their requests. Students were the first to demonstrate and grabbed the world's attention. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has this profile of one student leader.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Nathan Law (ph) is a student at Hong Kong's Lingnan University and a standing committee member of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. When the police arrested Law and other student leaders on Saturday, the larger movement called Occupy Central rushed to their support by launching their protests ahead of schedule. Law was released on bail. He expresses admiration for how his fellow protesters behaved over the weekend amid the volleys of tear gas the police fired at them.

NATHAN LAW: I'm very proud of the Hong Kong people. We showed to the world that we are very rational and we are very peaceful protesters and the contrast between the government and the protester is really obvious.

KUHN: Now the students are calling for Chief Executive CY Leung to resign and for universal suffrage, including the free nomination of candidates. The students' open-ended boycott of classes could clearly affect their academic and professional careers, but Law says he's not thinking about that too much. He's thinking about the historic sweep of the events he's caught up in.

LAW: A lot of students have the same thoughts as my. They just put aside their studies and fight for their homeland and fight for their universal suffrage.

KUHN: This could affect the rest of your life. You accept that.

LAW: Well, I accept that - yeah. And, well, I do what I consider right, so it's okay for me to accept such sacrifice.

KUHN: Victoria Hui is a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame. She says that in recent years, every chapter in Hong Kong's struggle for democracy has been led by a different group. This time she says it's the students' time to lead.

VICTORIA HUI: The leadership role is also very fluid. It's taken over by different groups of people over time. In fact, this explains why Hong Kong's democracy movements have sustained over time.

KUHN: Hong Kong students' political views are starkly different from those of their parents' generation. Nathan Law's parents immigrated to Hong Kong from mainland China where they learned that politics can be dangerous business. He says they are concerned, but they're gradually learning to accept his activism.

KUHN: What did they say when you got arrested?

LAW: Well, actually they don't really know exactly what has happened. (Laughter). I know that sounds bad - that I didn't fully tell them what has happened. But I think, well, someday they will understand.

KUHN: After our interview, he heads off for an appointment with his lawyer. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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