Malaysiakini News

From student activism to politics

Yap Jia Hee  |  Published:  |  Modified:

INTERVIEW | In January 2001, the protest against the closure of SJK (C) Damansara took place when Chang Lih Kang entered  University Putra Malaysia (UPM) as a first-year student. At that time, he did not know anything about student movements, but he knew that he had to come forward.

Chang learned from the newspapers that a "Save Our School Movement" (SOS) was being held. He then participated in the demonstration and walked from Pudu to SJK (C) Damansara with other protesters to protest against the closure of the school by the government.

Chang was arrested by the police for participating in his first ever social movement. Looking back, he says, he felt angry, rather than afraid.

"The atmosphere was relatively conservative and tense at the time because everyone was afraid of the Police Act 1967. It was considered an illegal rally when three individuals came together, so the organiser asked us to walk together in pairs, but we were still arrested.

"The police used intimidation when questioning us by saying that we would be kicked out of university. I felt very irrational and I was very angry, but I could not do anything because I did not know anyone at that time," said Chang.

Chang only started learning about student movements when some student activists contacted him over his arrest. He was not charged by police at the end, but his student activism began then.

Chang later founded the Student Progressive Front at UPM with his university friends so that they could have a platform to discuss various societal issues on campus, such as urban poverty.

Two years later, Tan Kar Hing began his studies at UPM. Coincidentally, the first campus activity he joined was organised by the Student Progressive Front, where he met Chang Lih Kang.

Tan still remembers that the activity was held in conjunction with campus orientation week, and that they were taken to visit illegal houses in Jinjang and study Kuala Selangor's rivers, mangrove forests and fireflies....

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