China’s ‘Greta Thunberg’ Can’t Go Back to School Unless She Drops Activism

Ou Hongyi

A 17-year-old girl in China was reportedly forced to suspend her studies as a result of her activism on climate change.

Ou Hongyi, who goes by the English name Howey, has engaged in protests initiated by Greta Thunberg, becoming the first in her country to do so.

In December 2018, Ou suspended her studies at the Guangxi Normal University-affiliated high school in Guilin after being told that she was “not suitable” for the university’s international program.

As a result, Ou — who dreams of attending Harvard University — decided to study for the SAT and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) on her own.


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我发现我需要重视这个数字:53,我的第53天#ClimateStrike 。我需要好好思考这个数字。我已经公然挑战这个系统53天了。我们需要付出全部去挽回未来,根据IPCC全球升温度特别报告,中文版决策者摘要 我们现在面临着人类有史以来面临的最大生存危机。我们的未来将在我们的面前消逝…而所有人还在为了便利,不愿意去面对真相。不想去做我们必须要做的事。我现在看不到未来在哪…在这样一个疯狂的世界 #气候危机 #为未来的星期五 #为生存植树 #素食 #环保 #世界地球日 #气候罢课#SchoolStrikeforClimate #fridays4future #公益 #地球日2020 #地球日# #反抗灭绝 #climatestrikeonline #气候危机 #sdgs #中国 #桂林 #气候罢课 #气候紧急 #地球 #星期五为未来 #气候变化 #数字罢课 #公民抗命 #地球環境 #china #chinese #ExtinctionRebellion

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According to Ou, her school principal, Li Linbo, informed her that she must end her activism as a condition for her readmission. Authorities also required the teenager to submit a psychological test, which she already took.

“The only negative thing it said was I’m stubborn,” Ou told The Guardian. She vowed to continue her activism, saying “I want more people to know.”


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Day 68th #FridaysforFutureChina The first die-in in my life. Thanks for two of my friends and parents’ kindly help, I don’t expect them to do anything about climate activism. Next time, better to talk to partners before I lie down, like the key point of the die-in climate protest which is children’s climate is dying and adults are pretend to be innocent and regardless. It may just take 10 mins but definitely helpful. About the time, in 12pm and 6pm there will be govts officials go out and find things to eat, in 10am-5pm, there is students passing by going to the library, these are our target. If next time, even the posters and cards are not well-prepared, but it’s on time so we need to catch them. And better to have a lunch together with my vegan friends and go to the place before action starts, as well as imagine the settings of the scene, like what gestures dying children and regardless adults do and light background music etc to draw people’s attention. We started at 9:40pm—10:30pm, not long but it’s too late. People in front of the Library mostly civilians walking after dinner, and parents with kids, dancing women, rarely young people at night. I am very surprised today that they called and helped me spontaneously, many thanks to them and my parents! My highest respect to @arshak.makichyan , hang on we must refuse to obedience and call to rebel! #ClimateStrike #LetChinaStrikeForClimate #LetRussiaStrikeForClimate #ClimateStrikeChina #ChinaFloods #气候变化 #气候危机 #气候罢课 #为未来的星期五 #FridaysforFutureChina

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Authorities reportedly called Ou’s parents several times, urging them to convince her to stop. Her father said they would not force her to change her beliefs, but they have concerns about her future.

“She has anxiety about the climate,” he told The Guardian. “We hope that she can graduate from high school, enter university, and hope that she can pay less attention to climate change issues.”

China remains the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for about 30% of the global carbon dioxide output. While it has invested more than any other country in renewable energy, it also burns the most coal, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

However, China maintains that it does its part in addressing climate change. Last Friday, it reiterated its commitment to the issue.

“China has been actively tackling climate change and implementing the Paris Agreement while fighting COVID-19 and promoting economic recovery,” said Zhang Jun, permanent representative to the United Nations. “We pursue green development, put people first, and make every effort to address environmental issues to meet our people’s aspiration for a better life. China earnestly implements the basic state policy of resource conservation and environmental protection, and promote ecological progress to build a beautiful China.”

Ou’s future remains unclear. For now, she runs an initiative called Plant for Survival, which encourages the youth to plant more trees.

Feature Images via @howey_ou

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