Climate Strike in China: Howey Ou in front of the Great Guilin Regional Government Complex - picture: private

By Lars Wienand/vf - May 28, 2019

The evergreen, fragrant Osmanthus-bushes with lingering scent have given the Chinese megacity Guilin its name: "Forest City of Scented Flowers". Now, that gives a feeling for the problem too. Howey Ou, 16, declared she is on climate strike at the new six-lane road in front of the huge building of the regional government.

Howey announced that she would protest until the government of the world's largest CO2 emitter makes quick and effective climate promises. has reached out to of 16 year young teen. "Every country has to take action NOW," she writes in English. She is not so profocient in that language; sometimes the questions need repetitions until she understands what they mean.

According to Howey, the Chinese have not yet focused on the subject, even though each country must take measures to fight against the climate crisis. That's what she now did, the young woman who is looking at the camera through oversized round lenses in most pictures.

Howey Ou is 16 years old and is the sole protestor in China for climate protection - picture: private

In her luggage: Books on Great Women

On Friday, she started wearing a striped t-shirt, gray sweatpants and mint-laced sneakers, as well as two self-styled posters. She had a bag in case she was arrested.

What she needs is in a bag with the Mickey Mouse motif – as well as literature: a Chinese edition of "National Geographic" about Sculpture in the Seas, a guide for inspiring speeches, and "Here we stand ", a book about women who change the world.

Parents are in shock

The photo in front of the government building during the strike was snapped by Howey's father she writes. Maybe he thought that she would stop the strikes afterwards. He certainly hoped for it. "When I talked about this idea to my parents, they were shocked.They spoke to me. They wanted to stop me, mainly for security reasons. But I was too determined."

It was the last Friday when hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated also in Hong Kong, where everything is still a little different and freer than in the rest of China, Howey told them on Twitter that she would also go on strike.

First: Howey moved from the sidewalk in front of the government building's gate, where she was able to talk to a manager who had given her courage and advice: She was supposed to visit places and meetings where the media and those politicians responsible for the issues are present. Experts are existing also in China, which has recorded in 2018 an increase in its CO2 emissions - mainly from coal.

Even rain can not stop Howey Ou

Permission? – "Nobody in Europe has such"

To protest, she is now sitting in front of the old government building, where the street is more frequented. She does not receive permission for her protest, she explains. And after receiving permission from anyone in Europe, she tweeted almost defiantly.

No one can say that the Chinese authorities, seeking full control, deliberately ignore them and let them wait to see if Howey can build their personal future for good.

According to Dirk Pleiter, expert for China at Amnesty International Germany, "there is a fundamental fear that the young woman can become a victim of repression, including prison." It's hard to predict right now." The Chinese authorities are still pragmatic with regard to these demonstrations and sometimes allow the expression of discontent by the population."

The movement "Fridays for Future" is a red line

The authorities' response will crucially depend on how much encouragement the action gets. That said, if Ms. Howey finds more and more fellow fighters, things can become more difficult: "The Chinese authorities will certainly not allow a "Fridays for the future" movement - that would be a pretty obvious red line. "

Alone but in sight: Howey Ou wants to draw attention to the climate strike on a square in front of the old government building until the Chinese government makes big promises - image: private

When Howey wanted to demonstrate also on Saturday again, her parents became is angry, even though it was Saturday. And yes, the father and mother always thought that students should be in school. "But I will continue to strike."

Likewise her friends are not much help either: "They want to dissuade me, because the environment does not play an important role in education." Lack of understanding is also serious among those passing by. "Nobody understands what I'm doing without an explanation." She's now going to revise her posters.

She posted new photos Sunday, then Monday and Tuesday. "I will stay there until there is a promise from the Chinese government." That's what I can do."

Howey Ou - the climate warrior of China

Greta Calls Howey "Real Heroine"

Her e-mail and account on the Chinese platform WeChat is now blocked, she writes. To use Twitter, she must connect via a VPN channel going though foreign countries. But now she has international attention. Greta Thunberg, a few weeks younger than Howey, sent a tweet to her 650,000 followers. "Howey Or," writes the Swede, "is a true hero, we are all behind you."

Howey Ou is a true hero. We are all behind you. Guilin, China. #FridaysForFuture— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) May 26, 2019

Howey now has many greetings and worried comments, saying she should be careful, maybe looking for some allies in environmental agencies. "I'm not very brave," says Howey. "The first initiators of the climate strike had more difficulties."

A humble and brave statement for a 16-year-old woman, who is in China so far the only representative of the worldwide uprising with climate strikes.


cc© Ben Jennings

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