As anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong intensify, Nathan Law GRD ’20 — a controversial Hong Kong activist who arrived at Yale this fall to pursue a masters degree in East Asian Studies — has become the target of online harassment and threats in the past few weeks.
Prior to his arrival at Yale, Law helped lead Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement — the precursor to protests that thrust the region into turmoil this summer. He served as the youngest lawmaker in Hong Kong history in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and founded Demosistō, a political party that fought for Hong Kong’s self-determination. In 2017, he and other student activists were jailed for unlawful assembly and incitement to take part in assembly. Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, who co-founded Demosistō with Law, was re-arrested in Hong Kong on Friday along with other prominent pro-democracy leaders.
According to Law, he has received numerous threats from individuals claiming to be Yale students on social media. He posted screenshots of messages containing explicit language and death threats on his Twitter on Aug. 20. One message threatened to “cut [Law] into pieces,” while another read, “wait you at school and have no escape. [sic.] American gun shooting is going to start.” It remains unclear if any actual Yale students participated in his harassment.
“These internet spam messages contain threatening messages,” Law said. “Since I have talked with the school and the police department, they put my safety as their first priority.”
Jing Tsu, chair of the Council on East Asian Studies, confirmed in an email to the News that the University has assisted in providing security for Law.
Earlier in August, a notice that called on Chinese students to harass Law circulated on social media, allegedly created by the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale. Later, the association disavowed the notice and encouraged “all Yale students and scholars to rationally express their aspirations, to not create or spread unfounded rumours.”
“There are many pitiful Hong Kong people who are not in touch with the truth, they are the real frogs at the bottom of the well,” the original notice — which was later found to be bogus — said. “Be friends with him, greet him, go play with him and have dinner with him — use friendly attitudes to transform him. Please forward this to all other social media and public forums in New Haven.”
Beyond the threats to his safety, Law said he is concerned about the “atmosphere of hatred circulating in the Chinese community” that is displayed in the messages.
Assistant professor of history Denise Ho said that the threats Law has been receiving are not a broader reflection of the Yale community.
“In my experience, students at Yale [are] open-minded and I would not be worried about threats from them,” Ho said. “My primary concern would be from someone posing to be a Yale student.”
Nathan Law graduated from Lingnan University in Hong Kong majoring in Cultural Studies.
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