Students concerned about climate change are set to rally at Chater Garden in Central in two weeks, after police granted organisers a letter of no objection.

The class boycott, led by young people, is part of a global “#FridaysForFuture” school strike campaign. It encourages pupils to skip school in order to urge governments to take action against climate change.

Air pollution in Central, Kowloon City, Tsim Sha Tsui and Sheung Shui. Photo: Hong Kong Observatory.

Students are set to march to government headquarters on March 15 from Chater Garden, after police told them that their initial chosen location of Victoria Park was unavailable.

Having to ‘fight the adults’

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who sparked the global student movement, responded to the news of the Hong Kong class boycott on Thursday. She tweeted: “We fight for our future in many places and in many ways. It doesn’t help if we have to fight the adults too,” in response to a story about the Hong Kong Education Bureau warning students against the strike.

Over 175 people had clicked “attending” on the Facebook event by Friday morning, with almost 1,000 more clicking “interested.”

Aya Masunaga, a 14-year-old form 3 student who plans on joining the strike, said she was initially inspired by Thunberg’s TED talk.

“Hong Kong is a very wasteful city,” she told HKFP. “However, many Hong Kong citizens don’t seem to see any connections between Hong Kong’s wasteful habits and the catastrophic typhoons we have witnessed recently. I think a climate strike is much needed in Hong Kong because of the lack of awareness here on the climate crisis.”

She added that she had some concerns that the strike would affect her studies. “However, later, I realized I had to look at the bigger picture. Was I really going to prioritize a few days of school over the well-being of all future generations and, well, the survival of our own species?”

Local mothers voiced support for the action in a closed Facebook group: “Teaching our children to take a stand, to raise their voice, is part of their education in my view. I will bring both my kids,” said one commenter. Another parent wrote: “I fully support this initiative which gives our kids the chance to take a stand on something that does and should concern them, and contribute in some way to this global stance. Schools are forewarned to expect what is a relatively minor disruption.” 

A spokesperson for the Education Bureau told HKFP on Thursday that it opposed the action “since any form of boycott of classes will disrupt the order in schools and interfere with the normal learning of students and operation of schools.”

Nevertheless, organisers on Facebook said the city needed to do more to tackle the environmental crisis: “Hong Kong is trailing behind its counterpart cities in renewable energy, energy efficiency, transitioning to electric mobility, and curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Not enough is being done to protect our futures.”

Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.