Over the past week, the tragedy of the Urumqi fire has inspired remarkable bravery right across China. Peaceful protesters are holding blank pieces of paper, chanting slogans, and engaging in many forms of creative dissent in the streets – quickly morphing into the loudest anti-government demonstrations seen in the country since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
As citizens gather in the thousands, one prominent voice is missing from the streets: Chow Hang-Tung’s.
A brilliant student from a top university, Chow is behind bars serving a 22 month jail sentence, for remembering the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
In June of 1989, hundreds – possibly thousands – of people were killed in the streets around Tiananmen Square, Beijing, as troops opened fire, killing protesters peacefully calling for economic and social reforms.
Fast forward 32 years later to June 2021, Chow was arrested and charged with “advertising or publicising unauthorised assembly” for encouraging people to light candles and commemorate these victims. Before her arrest, Chow was the vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance – the organiser of the world’s biggest candlelit vigil, commemorating victims of the Tiananmen crackdown.
The Chinese government wants people to forget about this dark chapter of history – but Chow has made it her mission for everybody to remember.
“To say I’m not afraid would be a lie. But I am not so afraid that I dare do nothing”.Chow Hang-Tung
Sadly, China’s playbook is all too predictable. It is virtually impossible for people in China to protest peacefully without facing harassment and prosecution. Authorities have shown zero tolerance to opposition, especially in the last 10 years.
But like those taking to the streets back then, and those taking to the streets right now – Chow’s bravery continues to shine through.
People power works – how you can help
Millions of compassionate people like you take part in Write for Rights – Amnesty’s annual global campaign, which is on right now. For more than 20 years, we have seen the power of collective voices in action. People unjustly imprisoned freed, trumped-up charges dropped, and those who abuse human rights brought to justice.
No one should be in prison for demanding justice, and remembering the victims of a violent crackdown. Together, our voices are more powerful than you think – we can let the authorities know that we too, remember – and that we won’t sit by while brave people like Chow risk everything for their human rights.
When courageous people protest, they make the world a better place. We must protect the right to protest wherever it is restricted and whenever it is at risk.
For Write for Rights 2022, we’re taking action for brave individuals from around the world, who have all paid a great price for speaking truth to power. We run Write for Rights every year because it works – real change happens when ordinary people come together to take action.
Learn more about Write for Rights. Write a letter, change a life – including yours.