6 things you should know about Howey Ou, China’s teen climate activist sensation

6 things you should know about Howey Ou, China’s teen climate activist sensation
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Howey Ou is China’s teenage climate sensation.

The 18-year-old lives in Guilin, and is often a lone figure at School Strike for Climate events that were started by Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist who galvanised an entire generation.

She says, loudly and clearly:"The climate emergency is the biggest threat to the survival of mankind. I feel anxious every day about the climate and the extinction of animal species.”

1. She got kicked out of school for her climate activism.

Howey Ou was kicked out of school for climate activism – even as many of her peers went back to school and continued to study for exams, Ou was told that she had to leave her activism behind if she wants to resume her studies in 2019. But she was forced to leave, and has since tried to re-enter – although authorities have said she has to give up interviews with foreign press if that is the case. Her school reportedly forced her to take a psychological test if she wanted to return.

2. Ou started to plant trees in Guilin after being told she didn’t have the right permits for a protest.

Ou initially had previously been told to leave the government offices in Guilin because she didn’t have the right permit for a protest. She was frustrated over what she saw as a lack of action from individuals in charge – so she planted trees in the surrounding areas to bring awareness to how climate change was affecting even the area that she lived in. This initiative is called Plant for Survival.

3. Ou is often a lone figure.

It’s hard to confirm, but photos of Ou often show her a lone figure holding a placard which says School Strike for Climate. Other media reports that Ou is the first young person in China to openly express support for Greta Thunberg and the School Strike for Climate campaign, and while other teenage climate activists exist in China, they are often lone figures where they live too.

4. She was questioned by the police.

Ou spoke to several news outlets about run-ins with the police after her climate strikes – she claims that she was interrogated by the police about her climate activism, and strongly encouraged to stop speaking to the foreign press if she wanted to continue studying.

5. She moved out of her family home in order to keep them safe.

Ou believed that her family could be at risk if she continued to live at home – so she moved into a hostel in Guilin where she continued her protesting, often making placards to hold up at her protests. She told the Japan Times that she often had long arguments with her parents about her climate activism, sometimes lasting for up to eight hours.

6. She doesn’t have the backing of any major organisations or groups.

Ou travelled around China last summer by herself – after getting kicked out of school for climate activism – to meet with environmental justice organisations and people who might be sympathetic to her cause. But she largely lives and works alone, and has been holding out hope that more people will join her in her protest.

Despite the obstacles standing her way, Ou has remained committed to her cause. She said,

There are many young Chinese people who may only need a bit of encouragement to bravely step forward. But if my voice does not reach them... we can't unite. So right now I am trying my hardest to make sure my voice gets heard.

And surely that's something we can all support?

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