‘No one would risk prison for any other reason than love’: Why Hong Kong’s youth took the streets

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Activist Nathan Law says young Hongkongers are fuelled by an anger that runs deeper than last month's anti-extradition bill protests.

Watch Above: From HK With Love

Last month, an unprecedented number of Hongkongers took to the streets to protest new laws that would enable extraditions to mainland China.

Among the sea of black-clad, umbrella-wielding demonstrators was Nathan Law. At just 25, Law's baby face belies his history of front line activism. 

In 2014, Law was just 21 when he and fellow student activist Joshua Wong helped orchestrate Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement; a 79-day occupation of the city’s streets. Both men were later jailed for their efforts.

In 2016, he made history as the youngest ever lawmaker elected to the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.

In 2018, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a coalition of US congressmen.

And in June this year, when the world’s attention was trained on Hong Kong, he rose up as a voice for a generation of young angry Hongkongers.

“People fighting for human rights in Hong Kong, as in China, will be put in danger,” he tells Dateline.

“What Hong Kong is lacking is a city that respects its people,” he says. “This city only worships money. We are very frustrated with the socio-economic situation in Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong has the highest concentration of ultra-rich people in the world. And over the past nine years it has topped the list when it comes to the cost of real estate.

“Hong Kong also tops the list for working hours, the least joyful city and it’s one of the least hopeful cities.  These are the indices that reflect the face of our city. You work long, you earn less, and you can't purchase a house.”

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Watch Hong Kong's Crazy Rich and Mega Poor On Demand.

The average rent for a 45 metre square studio in a mid-priced area of Hong Kong is now $3,350 AUD per month. With the city’s median wage of $3,000 AUD per month, even modest housing is far beyond the means of the average Hongkonger.

“A lot of youngsters cannot afford to rent. The [cost of living] in this city is so damn high. And their salary is not rising anymore.

It kills people. There are people committing suicide because of that.

“It kills people. There are people committing suicide because of that.”

While the protests and vision of people breaking into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council drew condemnation, Law says the protests highlight the passion and pride of the residents.

“You may not understand, you may not support what they have done but they are doing that out of love towards Hong Kong. Because no one would risk to be imprisoned for any other reason than love.”