An American teen activist has said that people overseas can make a huge difference by lending their support to Hong Kong protesters.
Twelve-year-old Matan Even has been actively commenting on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, publishing over 50 YouTube videos, and gaining almost 14,000 subscribers in an effort to highlight police brutality.
Even told HKFP in an email interview that neither he, nor his family, have any links to Hong Kong, and he has never been to the city: “But I still somewhat knew what was happening there and I decided that I should do something.”
Even said people overseas can make a huge difference, citing US President Donald Trump signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
He said he will continue his activism: “The more support, the more some protesters continue to feel that there is still reason to protest,” he said.
Large-scale protests have continued since June last year. Initially against a now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have enabled fugitive transfer to mainland China, protesters’ demands have expanded to include the unconditional release of all those arrested in connection with the unrest, retraction of the “riot” characterisation of protests, an independent investigation into the police use of force, and universal suffrage.
Even’s activism first gained viral traction after he displayed a t-shirt with the slogan “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” during a Los Angeles Clippers NBA game last October.
It was at the height of the controversy surrounding the NBA, after Beijing demanded that a Houston Rockets executive be sacked for airing support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
the best clip to start the NBA season is this kid baiting the broadcast into flashing a "Fight for freedom stand with Hong Kong" sign on TV and then the cameraman pans away pic.twitter.com/B30ubY63CX
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 23, 2019
Even told HKFP that he initially did not know the clip of his protest had gone viral, until a friend told him.
“I had thought this was unreal and was very surprised. I was also really happy I could bring attention [to] Hong Kong,” he said.
He said the NBA and Clippers had not taken any action after the protest. “I have Clippers season tickets and no-one has ever mentioned the subject. Luckily, I have been treated fairly,” he said.
I came to #BlizzCon19 to make a point! My point has been proven! I ran up on the Q&A panel (World of Warcraft) and Yelled, “FREE HONG KONG!” Now remember, to keep fighting for basic human rights! #hongkong #blizzcon #BoycottBlizzard pic.twitter.com/z6M4VVpCnB
— Matan Even (@matanevenoff) November 2, 2019
In November, Even went to BlizzCon, the annual conference of gaming giant Blizzard, when he went up on stage during a panel and chanted “Free Hong Kong.”
In October, Blizzard suspended a Hong Kong-based professional e-sports player for 12 months and withheld his prize money after he shouted the popular slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” during a livestream. Blizzard later shortened the ban to six months and gave him the prize money following a backlash.
“Even after I interrupted the BlizzCon Q&A they didn’t say anything, and I continued to protest even after,” he said.
Asked about pushback from Communist Party supporters, he said: “Of course, some pro-China people have said things online, but I think I take it well. Sometimes if the people have their DMs [direct messages] open, I message them and explain why I think what I think.”
Even’s YouTube clips often criticised the Hong Kong police, analysing viral clips of deployments and accusing them of being unnecessarily violent towards protesters. He has called for an independent investigation into police behaviour.
“No police have been arrested, which makes no sense, considering some are very violent against peaceful protesters, but thousands of protesters have been arrested. Police in Hong Kong are treated as above the law,” he said.
“Personally, it is almost impossible to restore their reputation until violence by police has consequences. China being a communist place definitely does not help the reputation either,” he added.
Even said that YouTube had placed age restrictions on many of his videos, and took down some. “They have been put back up, but only after many people on Twitter got very angry at YouTube, to the point where they decided to respond,” he said.
Even said he would love to go to Hong Kong or mainland China. “[B]ut I feel that it would be dangerous for me to go. I would probably not be liked by the police, and the government, and some citizens,” he said.