“I’m Not Entitled To Lose Hope”: The Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Campaigner On Life In Exile – British Vogue
Last year, when China announced plans for new security measures criminalising protest, Nathan Law had a stark choice: live in self-imposed exile, or face prison like Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow (his fellow founders of Hong Kong’s former pro-democracy party Demosisto) and many others. The day before the law was passed, Law flew to Britain; this April, he was granted asylum. Now based in London, he reveals that he “never felt like someone who could lead the pack”. His supporters would disagree: at university, Law was a leader of 2014’s Umbrella Movement protests; at 23 he became the youngest legislator in Hong Kong history (although he was later disqualified amid contentions over his oath); and in 2018 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Even so, he insists, “I’m just an everyday man in an unexpected position, making decisions with a conscience during a watershed moment in history.”
It is a life and a burden that the 28-year-old son of a construction worker and a cleaner never imagined. The Chinese authorities have accused the UK of sheltering a “criminal suspect”, and he has cut ties with his parents for their safety, accepting that he may never go home or see them again. How is he coping? “I’m only human,” he says. “I’ve felt distressed and burnt out, but this movement is larger than myself and it’s my responsibility to walk another mile for the people of Hong Kong.” From his new home, he continues to make his voice heard: speaking to international policymakers, guest lecturing at universities and writing a book on the privilege of freedom as a warning to the rest of the world.
Unable to predict the future, Law instead clings to hope. “I’m in a dark tunnel and there’s a glimpse of light at the end,” he tells me. “There will be obstacles along the way, but at least I’m free to walk towards it.”
Freedom: How We Lose It and How We Fight Back by Nathan Law with Evan Fowler (Bantam Press, £13) is published on 4 November.
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