The virtue of bravery has long been touted to be worthy of medals and celebration. But true acts of bravery in the modern age seldom earn praise — more often than not, they face punishment. Yet, many courageous figures have risked everything, not because of the applause, but despite the certain lack of it. In this desolate state of the new decade, we honor five individuals who fought the hard battle to go beyond what is easy, to do what is right.
Hong Kong Protests: Jimmy Sham
The ongoing Hong Kong protests, which began as an objection to the extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong fugitives to be taken to mainland China, have become overshadowed by more immediate health concerns. However, the likes of Jimmy Sham have not stopped preparing for a comeback. Sham is a long-time political/LGBTQ activist and a protest organizer, currently leading the Civil Rights Human Front (CRHF). The CRHF has been responsible for organizing many democratic protests, including the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and the more recent protests in 2019. Sham quickly organized the first and second marches, which quickly snowballed into millions upon millions of protestors marching for the cause. Despite multiple threats and even assault, he continues to fight for other civil causes in Hong Kong while working for the protests to reignite after the coronavirus pandemic passes.
COVID-19: Li Wenliang and Ai Fen
Medical professionals have been both the beacon and the lifeboat in the COVID-19 pandemic. Though casualties rise every day, the number would have been unimaginable — and unknown — had it not been for Dr. Li Wenliang. Even under immense pressure from the Chinese central government to stay silent, he released information on the first confirmed cases of the virus to his colleagues. Lesser known, Dr. Ai Fen (“The Whistle-Giver”) provided Li with the test results, leading to the eventual spread of the news. After severe crackdown and investigation from the government, Dr. Li passed away on February 7 from the very virus he informed the public about. Meanwhile, Dr. Ai has published her account on the situation, in the face of Chinese censorship.
Nth Room Case: “Investigation Team Flame”
Two female college students, going by the alias “Team Flame”, went deep undercover to expose the abhorrent black market of sexual exploitation videos in Telegram among tens of thousands of Korean users. Their investigation resulted in the arrest and trials of the perpetrators in March. Exclusive Telegram chat rooms were flooded with videos of sexually exploited victims along with their personal information, in exchange for (or sometimes even without) payment. Team Flame investigated for more than a year to dig up the massive and sickening magnitude of the criminal activities while risking harassment from the offenders if exposed. Not only did they voluntarily venture through the chat rooms and capture evidence to report to the police, they contacted victims, some underage, to support or to alert those who were not even aware of the crime. After explaining their discovery to the police, journalists, and on YouTube, they still persistently continue to track the perpetrators who are still unabashedly communicating in other chat rooms.
Every person here seems to be simply performing the duties of their job: activists leading protests, doctors treating patients, and journalists writing news. But it was the dedication to their duties to humanity, not jobs, that propelled these individuals. And right now, the world is in grave need of more of them: the ordinary doing extraordinary acts.