Courage and the Fight for Democracy in Hong Kong

Speaker: Alex Chow

What is the role of courage in the experiences of democracy protesters in Hong Kong?

Note: This presentation is possible in a 45-minute period but would benefit from a longer class period.

When students read about past social movements, they are able to assess historical actors’ choices and strategies with the benefit of hindsight. But people working for political or social change do not have this vantage point on their own movements. Instead, they need to strategize, make decisions, and act without knowing what the future holds. 

What role does courage play in this process? What does it look like from the outside, how do activists experience it internally, and what are the costs of acting courageously? How do activists make sense of their own choices as their story is still unfolding? This talk explores these questions through the lens of the 2014 and 2019 protests in Hong Kong. The speaker, a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and now activist-in-exile, shares his first-person account and stories from other activists’ to understand the nuanced human experience of high-stakes political activism.

About the Speaker

Alex Chow is a distinguished activist who co-founded the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington DC. The Council is dedicated to public education, research, and community organizing. Alex is deeply committed to safeguarding the basic freedoms, democracy, and cultural identity of Hong Kongers. During the 2014 Umbrella Movement, Alex played a pivotal role as a student leader. His involvement led to his imprisonment in 2017, but he remained steadfast in his advocacy and continued to champion the cause upon his release. In 2020, Alex co-founded the Flow, the first diaspora magazine that focuses on cultural politics, geopolitics, and identity politics in Hong Kong and beyond. His contributions were recognized in 2018 when he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize along with two other activists. Alex holds a master's degree in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Geography at the University of California, Berkeley.

Suggested Audiences

Age: 6th - 12th grade and community college

Preparation: The talk includes a summary of events in Hong Kong, but students would benefit from advance preparation focused on events in 2014 and 2019. The teacher does NOT need to explain the Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong in 2020. Considering this outcome is an important part of the lesson and discussion.

Courses: Ethnic Studies, Global Studies, World History, Government, Journalism, World Literature (if students are reading novels/stories related to political activism or human rights).

Invite Alex Chow to Speak