On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was handed over to the People’s Republic of China by the United Kingdom on the terms set out in the 1984 British-Chinese Joint Declaration. It provides Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy and the principle of “one country, two systems”. Hong Kongers’ fundamental rights should be protected and our way of life preserved for 50 years.

25 years later, Hong Kong is unrecognizable. The draconian security law, which came into effect on June 30, 2020, is used to punish dissidents, suppress protests and freedom of expression, and restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy. Since the law was introduced, at least 183 people have been arrested and 113 charged, more than 50 civil society organizations have been dissolved and several media outlets have shut down.

There is now a whole generation of Hong Kongers and activists going through horrendous trauma. The trauma of losing home, friends, family, roots and identity. Activists, myself included, are not immune to this, quite the contrary. We are not invulnerable.

I’ve heard time and time again that Hong Kongers are brave, honorable and noble. We are portrayed almost as mystical beings – like unicorns – who fear nothing: neither the loss of friends and loved ones nor a police officer’s combat boots. But courage is not the absence of fear. Courage means being afraid and still making the right decision. That has its price. Activists and the entire Hong Kong community are making an ongoing sacrifice.

As we mark the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover and the second anniversary of the introduction of the Security Law, I want to make it clear that we are not making this sacrifice just for ourselves. But also for you!

We’re not just fighting for our homeland – we’re fighting for a way of life that we share. Our loss is your loss too. What is happening in Hong Kong is the extension of an authoritarian regime. And if you think this regime will stop at Hong Kong’s borders, think again.

We are doing everything we can to make you aware of the threat posed by a brutal, expansionist and strategic regime. We are giving our all and hoping that our struggle, even if we lose it, will at least open the rest of the world’s eyes to the Chinese Communist Party.

Unfortunately, I have to say that the international community does not appreciate our sacrifice.

Germany, the EU and the free world have not done enough. They stand idly by as Beijing continues to crack down on us. In doing so, they not only abandon victims of human rights violations, but also the rule-based, liberal order that they have created and which they supposedly value so much.

The world must stand up for what it believes in. That means holding China accountable for what it is doing to my homeland – and by extension, to your way of life. Impose sanctions on those who commit human rights abuses. Insist on due diligence when doing business with authoritarian regimes. Appreciate the sacrifice Hong Kong makes for you. Call on your government to stand with the people who held their umbrellas in the tear gas blast to defend our values.

Glacier Kwong alternates writing this column with Joshua Wong. The two young activists from Hong Kong are fighting against the growing influence of China in their homeland. Since Wong is currently imprisoned, Kwong is continuing this column alone for the time being.