Greta Thunberg Embraces Chinese Dissidents Arrested for Environmentalism

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg poses for media as she arrives for a news conference in Davos, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. The 50th annual meeting of the forum is taking place in Davos from Jan. 21 until Jan. 24, 2020 (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Swedish climate change celebrity Greta Thunberg sent  “solidarity and gratitude” to activists around the world, including in world’s top polluter China, who were arrested for attempting to join her environmentalist movement, “Fridays for Future,” the South China Morning Post reported this week.

Fridays for Future is a movement founded by Thunberg that encourages students to engage in “strikes” by not attending school on Fridays to demand governments enact policies against the perceived threat of climate change. The Communist Party arrested activist Ou Hongyi last week for organizing a silent protest against the Chinese government’s pollution of the environment. Ou has signaled Thunberg as an inspiration and the greater global Fridays for Future family has embraced her.

Thunberg’s message of support to a detained Chinese dissident — a direct challenge to Chinese government policies — contrasts with her relative silence since her rise to fame regarding China’s abhorrent environmental policies, including emitting more than twice the carbon pollution of the world’s second-largest carbon emitter, the United States; destroying pivotal maritime ecosystems with illegal fishing and island construction; and destroying landscapes with unchecked rare-earth mining.

Thunberg has angered the Chinese government, however, not with any environmental appeals, but through her public friendship with anti-communist Hong Kong dissident Joshua Wong, who she has described as inspirational.

According to the Morning Post, Ou attempted to organize a climate protest in Shanghai last Friday. In a post on Instagram, Ou explained that police detained her and removed her from the public eye after attempting a silent protest demanding better climate policy from the Communist Party. Ou later explained that police took her into a station and forced her to write a “self-criticism letter” — a common communist tactic in which state agents force dissidents to apologize for their values.

“Billions of people will die, and children will die while parents lose their jobs. Nonviolent civil disobedience climate movement is the only candle in the darkness to give us a slightest hope,” Ou reportedly wrote.

At 17, Ou became the first participant in Fridays for Future in China known to the outside world. In July, the Communist Party reportedly told her and her family she could not return to school unless she abandoned climate activism, after Ou skipped a Friday’s worth of classes to join the movement.

“She has anxiety about the climate,” Ou’s father said in an interview that month. “We hope that she can graduate from high school, enter university, and hope that she can pay less attention to climate change issues.”

Thunberg responded to Ou’s arrest — and reports of arrests elsewhere — demanding China respect the right to protest, which does not exist in communist countries.

Thunberg has rarely criticized China’s climate record, though she has been more vocal on its opposition to peaceful protest. Instead, the teen activist has focused on pressuring the free world to act to prevent “mass extinction,” which she has expressed a zealous faith in as nearly inevitable for humanity.

In a famous speech delivered before the United Nations last year, Thunberg accused world leaders of having “stolen [her] dreams” and allowing the collapse of life on earth.

“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,” Thunberg claimed. “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?”

Thunberg also famously filed a legal complaint against five countries last year before an international court, arguing that their failure to act against climate change was a violation of their commitments in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The nations were Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey. China and India, two of the world’s worst polluters, did not make the list, while Brazil — thanks to the Amazon Rainforest and strict efforts to protect it, one of the world’s most environmentally conscious states — did. Thunberg and those filing the lawsuits contended that China and others did not make the cut because they never signed the enforcement provisions in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, so they had no obligation to adhere to it.

China is responsible for 28 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, more than any other country and nearly twice as much as America, second on the top of the list. As part of its responsibilities under the Paris climate agreement, the Chinese communist regime often boasts that it will actually be increasing, not decreasing, carbon emissions in the next decade.

In contrast, the United States has been steadily lowering its carbon emissions, dropping 12 percent from 2005 to 2018 according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While Thunberg has made few statements about China’s environmental record, she managed to anger the Communist Party last year by praising Joshua Wong, among the most prominent leaders of the anti-communist movement in Hong Kong. Wong praised Thunberg following Time magazine naming her Person of the Year in 2019, to which Thunberg responded by calling Wong “brave and inspirational.” Thunberg also wrote a promotional blurb for Wong’s book, Unfree Speech, about his fight for democracy in the formerly autonomous Hong Kong.

“Joshua Wong is a brave and inspiring young leader. Together we are one loud voice that cannot be silenced,” Thunberg said.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper attacked Thunberg and Wong for the “PR” stunt of complimenting each other on Twitter, accusing the Hong Kong protest movement of endangering the environment by “throwing Molotov cocktails.”

“It’s widely believed that Hong Kong anti-government protesters were desperate to grab the attention of the world by using Thunberg, who is Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2019, to create online buzz,” the Times claimed.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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