Time magazine disappointed many who follow current events, and baffled millions of people with normal lives, on Wednesday announcing that teen climate extremist Greta Thunberg had more influence on the world than any other human being.
It was a brilliant choice to anger the right people – conservative Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called Thunberg a “brat” less than 24 hours before the announcement, and less than 24 later President Donald Trump branded the choice “ridiculous” in a tweet that unnecessarily implicated Touched by an Angel star Roma Downey. But in a year where millions of young Asians took the streets defying the world’s deadliest dictatorship – and wrested their most important demand out of the clenched fist of that repressive state – elevating Thunberg is worse than a short-sighted snub in the interest of controversy. It’s a blatant admission of the white privilege that dominates America’s media elite, that refuses to concede even an inch when those not in its sphere outshine it.
By every metric, the Hong Kong protest movement was the world’s most influential. The protesters succeeded in forcing the Chinese government to discard key legislation in its quest to dominate Hong Kong. They shut down global flight traffic on multiple occasions. They inspired young Americans to rally against human rights atrocities and genocide in, of all places, NBA games. The Hong Kong protest movement has indelibly changed the world, and it is only six months old.
Protests erupted in June, attracting 2 million of the city’s 7 million people at its peak that month for marches that were largely peaceful.
The protesters took the streets in response to a proposed law that openly violated its “one country, two systems” agreement with China: if passed, the law would allow the Communist Party to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong if accused of violating any of its laws. Chinese laws are not supposed to apply in Hong Kong and the Communist Party shamelessly accuses anyone it doesn’t like of crimes like “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Political prisoners in China are subject to widespread torture and human rights atrocities like live organ harvesting, where the regime forces a doctor to cut a living person open without anesthesia and tear their organs out for sale on the black market. The people of Hong Kong, who knew relative freedom under British rule for decades, understood what was at stake when the China-dominated Legislative Council proposed exposing their people to this.
In September, in an attempt to silence the marchers, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced she would request the Legislative Council withdraw the extradition bill. Forcing Lam, a Beijing puppet, to concede on such a large scale proved a major embarrassment to Chinese Communist Party chairman Xi Jinping, who just two years ago had declared in a megalomaniacal three-hour speech that China was the world’s new conscience and America had been relegated to the dustbin of history. It was the biggest public loss the Chinese regime had faced since the Tiananmen Square massacre, whose 30th anniversary sparked the first major assembly in Hong Kong this year just days before the first anti-extradition bill protest.
The Hong Kong protesters won months ago, but they refuse to stop until the tear down the monster at their doorstep.
By September, the protesters had expanded their demands to reforms that would ensure the bill would never come back to life. To an American, the demands sound laughingly modest: the right to elect all of their lawmakers, an independent investigation surrounding the rampant police brutality against protesters, freedom for protesters arrested fighting for their rights, and a polite suggestion to stop calling peaceful protesters “rioters.” Including the end of the extradition bill, these are the five demands – “not one less,” as the protesters’ flagship slogan goes.
Lam has steadfastly refused to cede to any of the demands, but the protesters had nonetheless tallied some prodigious victories. Last month, President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, which protects protesters seeking U.S. visas and threatens the city’s special economic status in the event of major human rights abuses. The protesters are requesting European countries take similar measures. The protesters have also begun inspiring protests within China, a horrifying prospect for Beijing, which cannot afford another Tiananmen in the age of the internet.
Time perhaps hoped to choose one person for its cover this year, though it has repeatedly heralded groups of people and notoriously made “you” its person of the year in 2006. In that case, while the Hong Kong democracy movement insists on being leaderless, it has a de facto head: Joshua Wong. Wong is the 23-year-old secretary-general of a movement called Demosisto, which advocates for true, complete democracy in the country. He began his career as a dissident at age 14 – younger than Thunberg – and missed out on the beginning of the 2019 protest movement in his city because he was still serving a prison term for his activism in 2014.
Wong openly calls Xi Jinping an “emperor” and advocates for international intervention to shut down Chinese communism before it consumes the planet. He played a prominent role in getting the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed by testifying before Congress, resulting in the government imposing a travel ban on him. He also played a prominent role in galvanizing public sentiment against pro-China politicians, resulting in the government imposing a ban on him running for office.
Of low voice and fragile appearance, Wong’s presence alone defies the image Beijing has attempted to paint of the protest movement as a mob of rabid, uncultured anarchists – particularly in contrast to the pro-China organized crime mobs that Beijing unleashed on the protesters in July in an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade them. He also looks nothing like Greta Thunberg.
This matters, because in no other comparison can anyone rationally conclude Thunberg has mattered more in 2019 than Wong. Thunberg is Swedish, of rosy pale complexion and long fair hair. If Brie Larson had a daughter, she’d look like Thunberg.
Thunberg believes the end of the world is near, a gospel popular with Hollywood and United Nations elites, two crowds that often overlap. The teen began the year at – where else? – Davos, proclaiming that “our house is on fire” and “it is a lie” that some things are not black or white. Climate was black or white, she asserted, and the black would be the certain end of all humanity in 12 years.
Thunberg took her privileged image to the world stage in late July, sailing a boat to the United States from her native Europe to berate Americans to save the world from the Apocalypse. At the United Nations, she made very clear she believes that she will soon die along with the rest of humanity as a result of Western environmental negligence. I say “Western” because Thunberg seems to chronically forget that China is the world’s greatest polluter:
You have stolen my dreams, my childhood, with your empty words and yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?
The “mass extinction” of 2031 is a luxury problem, one that the Hong Kong protesters cannot afford to think about with the looming threat of being put in a Xinjiang concentration camp. It’s the perfect problem for the people who enable Thunberg, people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, people who have run out of actual problems.
These people are overwhelming white thanks to decades of systemic racism in the West. And, in their words, they strongly believe in the need for people to see themselves represented in anything they consume. Joshua Wong does not represent them.
Wong especially does not represent them because this white elite has embraced Xi Jinping, among the world’s bloodiest dictators, as polite society, the one non-white friend they can invite to elite conferences and photo-ops to feel good about their “diversity,” ignoring the fact that he is running a Han supremacist genocide project consisting of actual concentration camps to wipe out multiple ethnic identities.
The white privilege bubble burst for Time in its online poll on who it should have chosen as person of the year. The Hong Kong protesters overwhelmingly won with 30 percent of the 27 million votes, dwarfing the second most popular choice, “climate strickers” – a snub to Thunberg, seemingly, who came in alone in fifth place. “Climate strikers” only received 4.5 percent of the vote.
The poll is more than small consolation given the dwindling influence of American print media. It is proof of the earth-shattering influence of the Hong Kong protesters, which has permeated nearly every sector of American life – every sector, seemingly, except for the leftist white elite, who continue to struggle to respect those whose experiences are foreign to them.