Institute of Politics

Nathan Law

Activist, Founder & former Chairman of Demosistō & former Member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong

  • Spring 2021 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminar Series: “Hong Kong, Freedom & Activism: Lessons Learned from the Fallen City”


Nathan Law is a young Hong Kong activist, currently in exile and based in London. During the Umbrella Movement in 2014, Nathan was one of the five representatives who took part in the dialogue with the government, debating political reform. Upholding non-violent civil actions, Nathan, Joshua Wong and other student leaders founded Demosistō in 2016 and ran for the Legislative Council election. Nathan was elected with 50,818 votes in the Hong Kong Island constituency and became the youngest Legislative Councilor in history. Yet his seat was overturned in July 2017 following Beijing’s constitutional reinterpretation, despite international criticism. Nathan was later jailed for his participation in the Umbrella Movement. The persecution sparked global concern over Beijing’s crackdown on human rights and democratic movement in Hong Kong. In 2018, Nathan and his fellow student activists Joshua Wong and Alex Chow were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by U.S. congressmen and British parliament members. Due to the risk imposed by the draconian National Security Law, Nathan left Hong Kong and continues to speak up for Hong Kong people on the international level. In 2020, he was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME.


“Hong Kong, Freedom & Activism: Lessons Learned from the Fallen City”

Hong Kong, a city located 1965 KM (1200 miles) south of Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic China PRC, has not escaped from political persecution initiated by the PRC's sole party, the Chinese Communist Party. Although never a full democracy, Hong Kong was once praised as the freest city in Asia. Today, Hong Kong is widely recognized as an authoritarian state. In the process of the city's loss of freedom, we can observe how the Chinese regime adopted (and continues to adopt) different strategies on civil, legal and political fronts to enforce their will. The demise of freedom in Hong Kong illustrates the fragility of democratic freedom around the world and how an authoritarian regime threatens to destroy it.

In this seminar, I will take students on my journey as a democratic activist in Hong Kong, from the student-launched Umbrella Movement of 2014 to the protests of 2019-2020 to my current exile. Together we will explore how Hong Kong has fallen and the lessons that can be drawn from this story. The determination and courage shown by students and political activists in Hong Kong are a requirement to change society. And while some societies are more tolerant of dissent than others, change always requires some sacrifice. Students will come away from these seminars motivated and empowered to create change in their own communities and embrace the values that better their society no matter what the cost.

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