Joshua Wong: 'Hong Kong is not afraid of Beijing's Communist state. They will pay for the crackdown on us'
Hong Kong is rocked by huge protests against the Chinese state. Joshua Wong, youth leader, spoke with Rohit E David on China's controversial extradition law Hong Kong is battling now.
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Hong Kong protesters have once again seized control of part of the city.
Their current protest, involving millions ranged against China's controversial extradition law, has transformed into a redux of the 2014 'Umbrella Movement' which halted the entire city and caused even the tough Chinese state to blink. The extradition law, which gives the Chinese state the power to take anyone accused of corruption or criminal activities immediately, without trial, to the mainland, where their fundamental rights could be suspended, is being bitterly opposed by the citizens of Hong Kong.
Joshua Wong, youth leader, is a prominent voice of this opposition.
Umbrella Moment: Millions march through the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday as they protest China's extradition bill. (Photo: AP)
“In 2014, we told everyone that we will be back — and we have come. Now, we are here with stronger determination. Hong Kong is a place with seven million people, where two million have joined our rally. They have shown how they are not afraid of the oppression of Beijing. I am very angry with Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, about how she has ignored the voice of the people," said Wong, a hugely popular leader.
"On Tuesday, she held a press conference and refused to accept any request from the people. I just hope that everyone will realise Hong Kong is a modern city,” Wong emphasised.
Joshua Wong, who played a central role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement demonstrations, was released from prison on Monday. As he emerged, he vowed to join the latest round of protests.
“Hong Kong people suffer certain political prosecutions, of treason, etc. I think now is the time for us to show that the people have real determination,” said Wong. He walked free after serving one month of a two-month sentence related to the ‘Umbrella Protests’ of 2014. When asked if he was tortured in jail, he says: “I didn’t face any sort of torture in jail — but they kept 24-hour CCTV cameras over me,” he added.
After coming out of jail, Wong indeed joined the protests. He now says the removal of the extradition bill is one part of the current campaign but there is more to the demands that are rocking Hong Kong and worrying the Chinese authorities.
What do they want? Joshua Wong and other protestors want free elections and equal rights under China's rule in Hong Kong. (Photo: AP)
“In the long run, we demand free elections. The leader of Hong Kong should be elected by our people — and not appointed by Beijing. The leader should not be a puppet in the hands of the Communist regime. For the short run, we ask the government not to prosecute any activist. Now is also the time for Carrie Lam to step down,” he said.
In the 1800s, Britain took over Hong Kong after a war. It was only in 1997 that the English returned the country to China.
However, the country was given to China with a stipulation that the city would be governed for 50 years by itself before coming under Beijing's control.
Clearly, Beijing isn't waiting for 2047.
The situation in Hong Kong now is that the government has disqualified elected lawmakers, banned activists from running for office, prohibited a political party, jailed pro-democracy leaders and expelled foreign journalists.
The Empire Strikes Back: Protesters are hit by police water cannons during a demonstration in Hong Kong. (Photo: Reuters)
“How we observe the attack of police forces on ordinary citizens and activists is absolutely wrong. We understand that the extradition law is to target a person who has certain criminal activity — but the problem is that the trial will take place in China. To extradite anyone to mainland China is totally unacceptable — it’s a place where one can’t find a lawyer to represent themselves,” Wong said.
July 1 is the 20th anniversary of the handing over Hong Kong to China by the UK. And Joshua is clearly not willing to blink. He says that he, with millions of others, demands that the government remove the extradition bill.
“What we ask for is that we should have the freedom to organise demonstrations. This is a promise made by the Communist regime three decades ago, but they completely ignore it now,” he said. The young leader says that he is not afraid of any crackdown. There are already several protesters who are behind bars.
The protesters plan to have a massive mobilisation of their movement.
“The best part is that some people from mainland China have supported our movement. Around two million people in Hong Kong have joined the rally and this includes older people too. All this shows that Beijing will pay the price for human crackdown in Hong Kong,” Wong underlined.