Prominent Swedish climate activist Great Thunberg on Saturday joined an online social media campaign calling for the release of 12 Hong Kong activists detained in mainland China.

The campaign, aimed at spreading awareness about the group, calls on participants to post a photo of themselves holding up a sign displaying “#Save12HongKongYouths” and to nominate three other Twitter users to “spread the word.”

Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg. Photo: Greta Thunberg via Twitter.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong nominated Thunberg to take part in the campaign. In her post, the 17-year-old nominated three other international climate activists to join in: Luisa Neubauer, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye and Jamie Margolin.

Kickstarted by Wong last Monday, the #save12 campaign and online petition demands for the “immediate return” of the 12 to Hong Kong.

London-based NGO Hong Kong Watch launched separately a #savethe12hkyouths campaign last Wednesday, calling on UK parliamentarians’ support for the cause. Other demands included granting the detainees legal representation of their family’s choosing, contact with family members and access to medical care.

nathan law
Nathan Law. Photo: Benedict Rogers via Twitter.

The #save12hkyouths hashtag has been trending on Twitter, amassing more than 234,000 tweets as of Monday morning.

Others figures who have taken part in the campaign included parliamentarian Lord Alton, exiled activist Nathan Law, and British human rights activist Maajid Nawaz.

Thunberg became internationally renowned after she organised school strikes against climate change in her native country of Sweden in 2018.


The EU Bureau Chief of state-owned China Daily, Chen Weihua, criticised Wong’s nomination of Thunberg. Replying to the teen’s tweet, Chen accused Wong of “manipulating” her and railed against “pathetic” attempts to involve her in political issues of which she had “zero-knowledge.”

The 12 activists were arrested on board a speedboat in mainland waters in late August, allegedly while attempting to flee to Taiwan. Most of them were connected to charges relating to the anti-extradition bill protests last year. One of the fugitives, Andy Li, has been charged under the Beijing-enacted national security law.

Andy Li
Andy Li. Photo: Screenshot via Youtube.

The group has been detained for almost two months. They are being held in Yantian District Detention Center in Shenzhen, local media reported.

Earlier this month, nine more individuals in Hong Kong were arrested for allegedly aiding the 12 to flee.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.