At first glance, Joshua Wong doesn’t look like the leader of a protest movement. He’s thin and wiry with thick glasses and a scholarly demeanor, but Wong is the leader of a movement that seeks to hold the Chinese government to the promises it made nearly two decades ago.
Wong, 19, founded a movement called Scholarism, a protest group making waves for its attempts to remind the government of the promise Beijing made to allow universal suffrage in Hong Kong, a promise China made to the United Kingdom in 1997 when the UK returned Hong Kong to the Chinese government.
Beijing ruled against allowing elections in 2017, which led to protests from Scholarism and other groups. The protests lasted 79 days and involved over 100,000 demonstrators, and now Wong may face jail time – under charges of “inciting unauthorized assembly” for his role in stirring up unrest.
“What we’re fighting for is just for the Chinese government to uphold the promise in the 1984 declaration of ‘one country two systems’; true democracy under the agreement of Britain and China,” he said.
“The Chinese government has broken that promise.”
Wong traveled to the UK this month for a tour of speaking engagements at six colleges and universities. His visit just happens to coincide with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official state visit to London. Wong was also part of a group demonstrating against the lavish treatment Xi has received in Great Britain.
“I want David Cameron to know that Britain should raise the importance of universal freedom and democracy,” he said.
“Britain claims that it fought World War Two for freedom and democracy, but my view is that David Cameron is ignoring that. I would say to him, ‘Don’t let the benefit of investment blind your eyes’.
“I think Britain bears a special responsibility towards the issue in Hong Kong, and the government should not keep silent.”
The twist to Wong’s brand of activism? It is grounded in his Christian faith.
“The Bible teaches us that we need to fight for justice, and Christians bear the responsibility to be salt and light in society,” he said. “We have more obligation and a more important role in the world other than being just a normal citizen in society who wants to earn money.”
Even under the threat of jail time, Wong says he will not give up the fight, because he believes that he is battling for the future of his country and his people. At only 19 years of age, Wong may have many years ahead of him to fight for that future.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Lewis Tse Pui Lung