Editor’s note: In 2019, some people and their stories sparked heated discussions across the world. Our editor has picked five names that grabbed lasting attention and left impacts in some way. Let’s take a look.

Greta Thunberg

Time cover features Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, named the magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019.

Earlier this month, Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019. She also was presented as the 2019 Big Ben Award Elizabeth Global Ten Outstanding Young Persons at BBA London Global Charity Ceremony.

Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said Thunberg had become “the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet — and the avatar of a broader generational shift in our culture”.

For the 16-year-old, this is not her first time to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. In May this year, the magazine named her a “next generation leader” and noted that many see her as a role model.

Thunberg first became known for her activism in August 2018 when she started to spend her school days outside the Swedish parliament holding up a sign in Swedish saying “School strike for the climate” to call for stronger action on global warming.

Not long after, other students engaged in similar protests in their own communities, and together they organized a school climate strike movement under the name “Fridays for Future”.

The Swedish girl’s campaigning has gained international recognition. As of August, students taking part in school strikes reached 3.6 million people across 169 countries.

Greta Thunberg speaks at the High-Level event on Climate Emergency during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain on Dec 11, 2019. 

Born in Stockholm, Thunberg is the daughter of an opera singer and an actor.

She first heard about climate change when she was about eight years old, and could not understand why so little was being done about it, according to Thunberg.

Three years later, she became depressed, lethargic, and stopped talking, as well as eating, and eventually was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and selective mutism.

She does not view her Asperger’s as an illness and has instead called it her “superpower”.

Thunberg has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in May this year, though the prize went to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the end.

Later in July, she was awarded the Geddes Environment Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, which automatically granted her its Honorary Fellowship.

Swedish climate change teen activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a climate strike at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on Oct 18, 2019.

In August, Thunberg, who refuses to fly, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, England, to New York in a zero-emissions boat to take part in a UN climate summit. The voyage lasted 15 days, from Aug 14 to 28.

However, France 24 reported that several crew would fly to New York to take the yacht back to Europe.

In September at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in September, Thunberg told world leaders: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

The young environmental activist has won support across the world. In February, 224 academics signed an open letter of support stating they were inspired by the actions of Thunberg and the striking school children in making their voices heard.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also endorsed the school strikes initiated by Thunberg, admitting, “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”

However, Thunberg and her campaign have also been criticized by many people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized her as “poorly informed”: “No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.”

“This transformation of Thunberg by publications like Time from activist to influencer has gone a long way in voiding her politics, instead putting focus on her personality,” The Independent wrote.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, May 19, 2017.

Nine years later after WikiLeaks came to international attention when it published a series of leaks in 2010, Julian Assange once again appeared in the headlines in 2019.

On Nov 19, Swedish prosecutors discontinued the investigation into an alleged rape by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying the evidence has weakened considerably because nine years have passed since the events in question.

The Australian-born Assange set up Wikileaks in 2006, and made headlines around the world in April 2010 when Wikileaks published classified US military files related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In November 2010, Assange was accused of sexual molestation, coercion and rape. At the time, Assange denied the accusations but refused to be questioned in Sweden, fearing that Sweden would then extradite him to the US to face conspiracy charges.


Julian Assange is seen as he leaves a police station in London, on April 11, 2019.

Assange sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador in London since August 2012.

Swedish prosecutors reopened the investigation in April 2019 after Assange had lost diplomatic immunity and was arrested by the British authorities.

Currently, Assange is imprisoned in Britain, where he is serving 50 weeks after being convicted of violating British bail rules.

The United States has requested that he should be extradited there, where he faces 18 counts, including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison if convicted of all the US charges.

The full extradition case will be heard in the week starting Feb 25, a London court ruled.

Rahaf Mohammed arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Jan 12, 2019.

Rahaf Mohammed, formerly Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, captured the world’s attention when appealing for help via Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Rahaf reportedly fled her family while visiting Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, where she was stopped at a Bangkok airport on Jan 5, 2019 by Thai immigration police, who denied her entry and seized her passport.

She then barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign through her Twitter account. She said her father physically abused her and tried to force her into an arranged marriage. Her father has denied both allegations.

Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is greeted by Thai immigration authorities at a hotel inside Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan 7, 2019.

Later, the then 18-year-old girl was allowed to legally stay in Thailand for a period of time during which she was seeking refuge in a third country with the help of the Bangkok branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

She was granted asylum by Canada as a “resettled refugee” on Jan 11, 2019 and arrived in Toronto the next day.

After learning that her family had released a statement disowning her, she decided to drop al-Qunun from her name and to be known as “Rahaf Mohammed.”

US financier Jeffrey Epstein (C) appears in court in West Palm Beach, Florida, US, July 30, 2008.

This year, American financier Jeffrey Epstein made international headlines twice. First, he was accused in early July of sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of underage girls in the early 2000s, and then for committing suicide in his jail cell.

The exact origin of Epstein’s wealth remains unknown. He first worked as a teacher at a very exclusive New York City private school, Dalton, and was later hired by Alan Greenberg, head of Bear Stearns. In 1982, Epstein started his own company and eventually reincorporated his businesses in the US Virgin Islands.

In early July, the former hedge fund manager was accused of sexual exploitation, prostitution and abuse of dozens of underage girls in the early 2000s. He was denied bail weeks after and would face up to 45 years in prison if convicted. His clientele allegedly involved dozens of billionaires.

On Aug 10, the disgraced financier was found dead by suicide in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Two weeks before his death, Epstein was found semiconscious with marks on his neck in his cell in an apparent initial suicide attempt.

US federal prosecutors said the 66-year-old financier had lured those girls to his homes in Florida and New York, among other places, and paid them for sex.

US financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry on March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters on July 10, 2019. 

According to the reports by US media, Epstein was previously convicted on similar charges around 11 years ago in Florida. He avoided federal prosecution and was thus spared from a lengthy jail time by pleading guilty to state charges under a plea deal. He spent 13 months in a county jail and was allowed to go to his office during the day.

Several influential political figures also were involved in Epstein’s scandal, such as Britain’s Prince Andrew, US President Donald Trump, and former US president Bill Clinton.

Numerous media reports about Prince Andrew’s alleged links to Epstein appeared. The Duke of York met Epstein after the American financier’s release from an 18-month prison term in 2010 for prostituting minors.

The Duke of York said in a statement that he wanted to “clarify the facts” around his “former association or friendship” with Epstein.

“At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behavior of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.”

Overseas media reported that a Royal expert argued the Palace had not yet done enough to reduce the damage to the royal family following his interview about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. The Duke of York stepped back from his royal duties in late November.

Another past associate of Epstein’s was Donald Trump. Before he became president, Epstein and Trump reportedly used to party together but the two later had a falling out, according to a report by CNBC.

Princess Haya bint Al Hussein arrives at Royal Courts of Justice in London, on July 31, 2019.

Princess Haya bint Al Hussein left her husband Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, with her two children in June this year.

Princess Haya is residing in her mansion in Britain, according to reports. Haya fled initially this year to Germany to seek asylum.

Early last month, Princess Haya and Sheikh Mohammed appeared in a British court for the latest hearing in the couple’s legal battle over the welfare of their children.

The two parties said in a statement in July that the case before the High Court in London did not concern divorce or finances but was only limited to their children’s welfare.

At an earlier hearing, Haya asked the court to protect one of her children from a forced marriage and to grant a non-molestation order, a type of injunction that protects against harassment or threats, Reuters reports.

In 2004, Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and half-sister to present King Abdullah, married Sheikh Mohammed and became his sixth wife. Sheikh Mohammed reportedly has 23 children by his different wives.

Jordanian Princess Haya bint Al-Hussein and her husband Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, walk to the parade ring on Ladies Day, the third day of horse racing at Royal Ascot in southern England on June 17, 2010. 

Haya gave birth to their first child in December 2007, and the second one in January 2012.

Haya is a graduate of Oxford University in England and an accomplished equestrian. She represented Jordan at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and is the two-term President of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.

Princess Haya began horse riding internationally when she was 13. She won the bronze medal in individual Jumping at the seventh Pan Arab Games in Damascus, Syria in 1992, and was named Jordan’s athlete of the year in 1992.

She was the first woman to represent Jordan in international equestrian sport and the only woman to win a medal in the Pan-Arab Equestrian Games.

After receiving training for several years in Ireland and Germany, she qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and represented Jordan in show jumping, during which she was also the flag bearer of her country.

Princess Haya became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2007, and became an appointee to the IOC’s International Relations Committee in 2010.

2019 Big Ben Award Global Ceremony Successfully Held in London

The Opening of 2019 BBA Global Ceremony, Left: Lady Katy Blair MBE, Baroness Uddin House of Lords, Professor Yinya Jonsson Li, Sir George Reresby Sacheverell Sitwell 8th Baronet, Professor Colin Riordan (President and Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University).
The Painting “Telent for People”

On 18th November 2019, “Sea Silk Fund” 2019 Big Ben Award Global Ceremony was held in London, U.K. There are guests and winners from the United Kingdom, China, the United States, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sweden, Malaysia, Greece, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Korea, Japan, Singapore, etc.

The Global Ten Outstanding Young Persons of 2019 Big Ben Award
Group photo for 2019 BBA winners and presenters.

Professor Yinya Jonsson Li, the BBA founder, delivered a welcome speech and announced the winners of the 2019 Big Ben Award Elizabeth Global Ten Outstanding Young Persons Prize Elizabeth, LEE Chun Pong Bruce from Hong Kong, who are the successor from Wing Chun Kung Fu family Ip Man Chinese Kongfu Master, Malaysian badminton player Datuk Lee Chong Wei DB PJN AMN DCSM DSPN, Trinidadian entrepreneur in businesses of financial services and film production Maurisa Coleman, Japanese actor Yutaka Takenouchi, the world championship finals of online game “League of Legends” China’s FunPlus Phoenix, Chinese painting artists JIN Shizhuo (also the winner of the 2019 BBA Art Painting Golden Prize winner), Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui as Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the United Arab Emirates, Korean actor KIM Soo-hyun, and financial professional from Bangladesh, Amjad Suleman.

Acceptance speech by Professor Colin Riordan, who is President and Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University. Professor Riordan won 2019 International Education Contribution Prize Golden Mulberry BBA

Baroness Uddin House of Lords gave a key-note speech to encourage the development of the global young persons and give the praise for the Big Ben Award.

This year’s Big Ben Awards are particularly focused on education, with Cardiff University winning 2019 Champion of The Most Admired University Ranked by International Young Persons of BBA. Professor Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University, won 2019 International Education Contribution Prize Golden Mulberry BBA. The winners for the Golden Seagull Prize of 2019 Ten Outstanding Chinese Young Students in the UK are Jianqiao ZENG from University College London, WANG Yanting from Loughborough University, Dr. ZHANG Junhao from Cambridge University, WANG Shuo from University College London, Dr. CAI Shuo from the Cardiff University, ZHANG Ruihua from Imperial College, Dr. GONG Hui from University College London, Dr. YAN Mengjiao from Sheffield University, YANG Shuo from Queen Mary, Lisa He from The University of Edinburgh.

The Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine TU Youyou and Lady Katy Blair MBE won 2019 Global Outstanding Woman Prize Golden Carnation.

2019 UK Outstanding Woman Prize Golden Carnation was presented to Shirley Xuehua Liu Au-Yeung, Founder and Chairperson of the Chinese In Wales Association.


Sir George Reresby Sacheverell Sitwell won the 2019 International Friendship Prize of Golden Mulberry BBA. 2019 Community Charity Contribution Prize of Golden Mulberry BBA’s winner is Hazel Lim Chew Woon from Malaysia.

Wang Yanting, from Loughborough University, one of the winners for the Golden Seagull Prize of 2019 Ten Outstanding Chinese Young Students in the UK .

Chinese doctor Guan Guoxian from Fujian Union Hospial was presented as the Most Recognized Chinese Doctor for the 2019 BBA Hippokrates of Kos Prize in the field of Physiology or Medicine.

The Mayor of Haringey the Councillor Sheila Peacock and Mr. Abe Tse won the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Prize Golden Mulberry. The other winners include Tina L K YAM (2019 European Outstanding Chinese Prize Elizabeth BBA), Zonghan LI ( The Most Admired Actor for Film/TV Golden Unicorn BBA), Emana Leung (2019 Music Most Admired Annual Original Score of Golden Unicorn BBA), etc.

The opening instrument playing and host are organized by the Committee of 2019 Brilliant Stars Contest (Singing/Dancing/Instrument) & UK China Art Festival.

The selection of Big Ben Award was planned in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, which is a world-class authoritative award for outstanding individuals and brand companies worldwide and other aspects. It is also a historical testimony of the continued prosperity of every nations civilizations in the world.

Chinese art-work show in the 2019 BBA Ceremony.

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