Young people across Asia pushed for change in 2019. Meet five of them

Left to right: Young activists Jihye Yang, Weng Yu Ching, Ridhima Pandey, Ye Wai Phyo Aung, and Jocelyn Chau.

(CNN)2019 was the year of youth activism. Around the world, students and young adults took matters into their own hands, fighting for social issues like gender equality and climate action.

Some movements in Asia saw significant leaps forward, like the legalization of gay marriage in Taiwan. In other places like Hong Kong, now in its sixth month of pro-democracy protests, the struggle has no clear end in sight.
One theme connects these seemingly disparate issues across all countries. Young people are standing up and demanding change because it's their future at stake. They are the ones who will live to see the consequences of action taken now.
    Here are five young leaders driving change in Asia.

    The fight for marriage equality in Taiwan

    Weng Yu Ching, 24, has been campaigning for LGBT rights in Taiwan since she was a teenager.
    Weng Yu Ching, 24, remembers the moment Taiwan legalized gay marriage. She was in Taipei on a May afternoon, along with thousands of other LGBT activists draped in rainbow flags as they awaited the announcement.
    When it finally came, the crowds erupted in cheers. People cried openly. Weng, too, was "very happy and very emotional."
    "I felt very fulfilled," she said. "I felt like, wow, we did something really great."
    It had been a long road to that point -- both for Weng, who works at non-profit organization Taiwan Marriage Equality Coalition, and for Taiwan, which is now the first and only place in Asia to legalize gay marriage.
    People celebrate after Taiwan's Parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage on May 17, 2019 in Taipei.
    Weng has been fighting for LGBT rights since she was 17, when she saw a pride parade for the first time in her home city of Kaohsiung. Interest piqued, she made friends in the LGBT community and worked at an LGBT support hotline, chatting with closeted people who often "fear rejection due to their sexuality."
    In 2017, Taiwan's courts ruled that the existing marriage laws were unconstitutional and ordered parliament to amend or enact new laws by 2019 -- sparking an acrimonious nationwide debate about LGBT rights.
    Weng would spend hours at a time campaigning on the streets, trying to raise public support and awareness -- sometimes right next to anti-LGBT groups trying to do the same thing for their side.
    After months of lobbying legislators, social media campaigns, and volunteer work, it felt "amazing" to see the same-sex marriage law finally pass, Weng said. For her, the best part came after the big announcement -- when she began receiving wedding invitations from same-sex couples, many of whom had waited years to legally tie the knot.
    There's still work to be done, especially in rural areas where queer youth have less access to resources and support. But this year has been a victory -- and a sign that times are changing.
    "People are accepting LGBT people more and more," she said. "We're the first in Asia. I'm very proud of my country."

    A landslide election victory in Hong Kong

    Jocelyn Chau was elected district councilor of Garden City, North Point, in Hong Kong in November 2019.
    In 2019, Hong Kong erupted into chaos.
    Pro-democracy, anti-government protests began in June and have not stopped since, with protesters demanding greater democracy and an investigation into alleged police brutality.
    Young people have always been on the front lines, clashing with police -- but in November, they were also on the ballot.
    Young pro-democracy candidates swept to victory in the local district council elections, which many framed as a de facto referendum on the protests.
    Jocelyn Chau, 23, is one of the newly-elected councilors, representing the City Garden constituency of North Point, on Hong Kong Island. She was a teenager in 2014, when pro-democracy protesters occupied city streets for 79 days in the Umbrella Movement. She was still a student, so could only attend protests and marches, but it inspired her to consider political action.
    "I was thinking, in what way can I help society in the future?" she said.
    She worked as a client manager at a bank after graduation -- but then this summer's protests kicked off, against a China extradition bill pushed by the city's leader and government.
    "I couldn't bear to see (the administration) put Hong Kong into jeopardy," she said. "So I decided to step forward and run for (the district council)."
    Chau's platform wasn't explicitly political, instead focusing on community issues, but she still became a target in the city's hyper-charged tensions leading up to the elections. In October, she was attacked while campaigning on the street, punched by a man who tore up her posters and threw them to the ground.