Let us burn before our rebirth, says exiled Hong Kong activist

Published (HKT): 2020.10.24 00:00

At the age of 26, Finn Lau wears a sharp suit, looking like a young professional working overseas.

Like many Hongkongers, Lau was an eager participant of last year’s anti-extradition movement and has also taken to the streets on multiple occasions.

But he went further than most by advocating the concept of “lamm chau” (if we burn, you burn with us) under the pseudonym of “brother lamm chau.”

While some use terms like “scorched earth” and “mutual destruction” to describe the group’s ideology of bringing down Hong Kong’s economy when the government refuses to meet protesters' demands, Lau prefers the term “phoenixism” as it signifies Hong Kong’s rebirth.

“At a certain point, the authorities will feel the burn and they may make concessions,” the break-to-make advocate tells Apple Daily in an online interview.

The “Stand with Hong Kong” team he led is best known for its wildly successful crowdfunding campaigns for front-page advertisement on international publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian during last year’s pro-democracy movement.

Having moved to the United Kingdom, Lau recently revealed his identity and announced the launch of his new advocacy group “Hong Kong Liberty.”

For the first time, the young surveyor discloses his upbringing.

“I was born and raised in a grassroot family in Hong Kong,” Lau says. “I did not begin my adventures overseas until after working locally for a few years.” Contrary to previous rumors that Lau is a civil servant or a politician, Lau stresses he is simply a young Hongkonger with no party affiliations or foreign passports.

Like many his age, Lau first became aware of politics during the 2012 movement against the proposed national education curriculum, and later took part in the 2014 Occupy protests.

Lau confesses his disappointment with local politics after lawmakers were disqualified in the 2016 oath-taking row. “I did not want to read the news and I tried to focus on developing my career,” said Lau. He then worked and lived in Singapore for a year, before he landed a job in Britain.

But he found himself unable to stay aloof when the anti-extradition bill movement erupted in Hong Kong last year. After joining a rally in the United Kingdom last June in solidarity with the Hong Kong movement, Lau began to explore different ways to support his people back home.

His initial idea was to rally users on Hong Kong’s Reddit-like online forum LIHKG to launch petitions for foreign governments to revoke the overseas citizenship of Hong Kong officials and their allies. Lau admitted that the original goal was rather short-term. “Trapping the pro-Beijing camp in the Greater Bay Area was thought to be mutual destruction.”

The fall of Hong Kong was bound to happen in 2047, the time of the legal expiration of the “one country, two systems” and the city’s autonomy 50 years after Britain handed it over to China in 1997, Lau points out. “By then, the so-called values of Hong Kong will be exploited to its fullest or completely replaced by Shanghai, Shenzhen or other places, and Hong Kong may not even have the opportunity to bargain or burn.”

Hongkongers of the contemporary are simply pushing forward what was supposed to be borne by the city’s last generation, so that several generations can take matters in our hands together or even rewrite the fate of our homeland together, says the young activist.

“We still have our international status now, which makes us important to China. We have long been misled to think that Hong Kong cannot survive without China,” he continues. “Well, that’s not true. We have just been trading with them and that’s some fair exchange on equal terms.”

As the movement continues to evolve and tensions between the United States and China heightened, Lau is surprised by how things have escalated much quicker than expected, referring to the scrapping of Hong Kong’s special status and tax privileges by the U.S. government.

Lau considers the mass exodus of people moving away from Hong Kong after the enforcement of the national security law a direct hit on the government’s tax revenues and financial reserves. He calls on those who remain in the city to keep voicing out concerns despite growing risks in speaking out.

In view of the upheaving changes in Hong Kong in recent months, Lau is not hopeful that the city’s rebirth can come shortly, as the central government will hardly loosen its grip on the city anytime soon.

“We cannot hope to put right our mistakes from the past decades in just one year’s time,” the young activist in exile continues. “There is no need to lose hope and we must continue on this path.”

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