"Here we are again": Joshua Wong upbeat after massive Hong Kong protests
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong (C) looks on as protesters gather outside the Wanchai Police headquarters in Hong Kong, China, June 21, 2019. EPA-EFE/FILE/JEROME FAVRE
Hong Kong, Jun 25 (efe-epa).- Born to a humble Hong Kong family 11 months before the city was handed over to China by the United Kingdom in July 1997, Joshua Wong grew up determined to carry forward the fight for freedom, human rights and democracy.
The young admirer of Nelson Mandela and video-game buff has become one of the most popular faces of the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony, and was released recently on Jul. 17 after spending nearly five weeks in prison for participating in the 2014 protests, dubbed the Umbrella Revolution.
His release came at a crucial moment in the city's struggle for political freedoms: a day earlier, a massive demonstration – probably the biggest in Hong Kong's history – forced Chief Executive Carrie Lam to apologize for her handling of a bill that would allow fugitives to be deported to mainland China.
Although Wong – general secretary of the pro-democracy Demosisto party – insists that neither him nor anyone else can represent two million protesters – an attendance figure offered by the organizers – he told Efe in an interview that "in 2014 we told everyone that we would return, and here we are again."
Q.- China says it would not allow the Hong Kong issue to be discussed at the G20 summit. Do you have actions planned to increase the visibility of the issue?
A. - Washington and Beijing are embroiled in a trade war and there is a growing international awareness of the internment of more than one million Muslims, mostly Uighurs, in China's Xinjiang region, and on Chinese attempts to interfere in the prosperous democracy of Taiwan.
The protesters are also aware of this, and urge the supporters to keep up their actions at least until the G20 summit in Japan is held later this month. They should try to ensure that Hong Kong is seen as a barometer through which the international community judges how China behaves, without becoming a pawn to sacrifice in the growing trade tensions between the two countries.
Q.- What tactics could lead to better results for the current protests compared to the Umbrella Revolution?
A.- The pro-democratic movement in Hong Kong has returned: bigger, more organized, stronger and, in many ways, smarter, having learned the lessons of the failures of the past. When there are no leaders, there are no tensions. The protesters are mobilized to participate in acts of civil disobedience through encrypted message systems and discussion forums on social media , without fear.
Q.- You were recently released. Were you mistreated in jail?
A.- No, but they had security camera focused on me 24 hours and not knowing what time of the day it was bothered me quite a lot.
Q.- What began as a call to withdraw the controversial extradition law has transformed into a series of demands from the government. How do you think this can be resolved?
A.- The priority is the withdrawal of the extradition bill, although the protesters now also demand the resignation of Carrie Lam, the release of all those arrested in the protests, deleting the label of "riot" attached to the protests on the night of June 9 and 12 and an independent investigation into police brutality.
Agents fired 150 tear gas blasts, around 20 bean bag rounds and an unspecified number of rubber bullets that wounded 81 people, including peaceful protesters and journalists.
Q.- July 1 is the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong being transferred to China, and protesters are planing a massive demonstration. What are your expectations?
A. We are not going to give up, there is no fear. We hope that another million (protesters) will return to the streets to demand that the government eliminate the law. We ask for freedom to organize rallies, a promise made by the communist regime, but now completely ignored.
Q.- What do you think about the government disqualifying elected legislators, banning activists from fighting elections, banning a political party, jailing pro-democracy leaders and expelling foreign journalists?
A. The attack of police forces against citizens and activists is absolutely wrong. Beijing will pay the price of human repression in Hong Kong.
Q.- Hong Kong enjoys some autonomy under the "One country, two systems," model, which allows it to keep its own political and economic system and rights such as freedom of expression, protest and press freedom. What is the current reality?
A. The reality is that right now, the situation is summarized in "one country, one system and a half" and will end up in "one country with only one system".
Q.- In 2047, Hong Kong will be completely integrated in China, and many citizens are afraid that this would mean the end of the city's progress towards becoming a democratic society.
A.- If 10 years ago someone would have told us that in 2047, China would look like Hong Kong, we would have believed it. But in the last decade, we have seen how the Communist Party (of China) seeks to make Hong Kong more and more similar to the rest of China.
Beijing has not even fulfilled its promises to the British, who ruled the territory for 150 years. They agreed to grant Hong Kong universal suffrage in 2007 to directly elect the chief executive.
But in 2003, after the massive protests against Article 23 – known as the Anti-Subversion Law – the central government decided to deprive us of that right as punishment. So today, we still can not vote for those who govern us. That's why we've been fighting to get it.EFE-EPA