Nationality at birth: Hong Kong
Place of the fight for human rights: Hong Kong
|School||United Christian College.||Knowloon|
Reason for entry:
Function / Activity:
Freedom of assembly and association
To help shape the public order
Joshua Wong, who is now one of the faces of the democracy movement in Hong Kong, was born in Hong Kong on October 13, 1996. His parents Grace and Roger Wong raised him Lutheran-Protestant. He attended the Christian secondary school “United Christian College”, later he studied political science at the “Open University of Hong Kong”. However, he interrupted this studies for his political activities. According to his own statements, he honed his organizational skills as well as his rhetoric through his involvement in church groups. He achieved political fame at the age of 15, when he successfully protested against the introduction of the school subject “Moral and National Education” with his newly founded protest group “Scholarism” in 2011.
Joshua Wong was born in 1996 and grew up in Hong Kong. In addition to interests typical of his peers, such as comics and video games, he developed an interest in politics at an early age. He started his first protest to get rid of bad cafeteria food. He enjoyed challenging authority from an early age. A few weeks before this action, he visited a nursing home with his father. He was disturbed by the poor conditions there, which had not improved in comparison to the year before. He himself describes this event as a revelation. At school he met Justin, who later became his best friend, who was passionately interested in politics. Joshua says that Justin’s interest in politics rubbed off on him and that he learned a lot about politics this way.
Protest against the school subject “Patriotic Education”
In October 2010, the Hong Kong government published plans to introduce the school subject “Moral and National Education”. Officially, the goals of this subject were to develop moral qualities, positive and optimistic attitudes, self-knowledge, friendly and reasonable attitudes, and recognition of identity. Joshua Wong and his fellow activists, however, feared propaganda loyal to China. As a result, they formed the protest group “Scholarism”, whose months-long protest against this law culminated on August 31, 2011, when they called on students to occupy the forecourt of the government building, which the activists called “Civic Square”. On the same day, three Scholarism members went on hunger strike. Although the hunger strike ended on September 3, the hunger strike and the media presence ensured that the protest movement reached its peak on September 7. 120,000 people dressed in black poured onto the forecourt of the government building following a call. One day later, the Hong Kong government was forced to withdraw the proposed law.
The Umbrella Movement
In addition to autonomy rights, Hong Kong was also granted the right to free elections when it was returned to China. Although the National People’s Congress in Beijing decided that everyone in Hong Kong would be allowed to vote in the future, all candidates must first be approved by an electoral college. The desire for free elections eventually drove thousands of people onto the streets. Starting in September 2014, there were mass demonstrations and strikes, and streets were occupied. On the evening of September 26, demonstrators attempted to storm Civic Square, which had been cordoned off in advance. As a result, Joshua Wong was held in police custody for 46 hours and released on bail on September 29. After police used tear gas and pepper spray against nearly 200,000 protesters on September 28, Professor Benny Tai, co-founder of the “Occupy Central Trio,” which also advocates for free elections, announced the official start of Occupy Central. Originally, the trio consisting of Professor Tai, Professor Chan Kin-Man and Baptist minister Reverend Yiu-ming planned the action called “Occupy Central with Peace and Love” for October 1, 2014, but launched it earlier in light of these events. Over the next 79 days of the so-called Umbrella Movement – named after the umbrellas used for protection from police tear gas and pepper spray – thousands of people in Hong Kong protested. On November 25, Joshua Wong was arrested again for violating a court order which banned him from approaching the protest zone. He was released after 30 hours. In the following days, the squares were gradually cleared. On December 15, 2014, the movement was finally over.
In April 2016, the Demosistō party was founded. Wong himself describes it as a reactivation of the student group “Scholarism” in form of a political party. The name is a combination of the Greek word “demos” (meaning people) and the Latin term for “I stand”. The party participated in the 2016 elections to the legislative council. Due in part to Joshua Wong being too young, Nathan Law ran for Demosistō. Those involved agreed on self-determination as a core issue. Money for the campaign was raised through crowdfunding and donations at street demos. But by the last month before the election, Nathan Law’s poll numbers had stagnated. Through a series of television appearances, they rose again, and ultimately Law clearly won the mandate.
Traditionally, pro-Democratic members of congress use the swearing-in oath as an opportunity to protest. For example, Nathan Law emphasized the last word, turning the oath into a question. The government’s attempt to punish Law and other MPs for this succeeded. A November 2016 decision ruled: anyone who knowingly takes his oath of office falsely may not repeat it. As a result, 6 deputies, including Law, lost their offices. In addition, the government demanded repayment of the salary.
Joshua Wong has already been imprisoned several times due to his political commitment. The first time for storming Civic Square in 2017, when he and two of his fellow activists were sentenced to six to eight months in prison for participating in an illegal gathering during the Umbrella Movement. Wong served the first part of his prison sentence at the ,,Pik Uk” prison from August 18, 2017. Here, he campaigned against mistreatment of prisoners and wrote letters. On October 16, 2017, he was transferred to Stanley Maximum Security Prison after he reached full legal age. He wrote letters to the public from here as well. He was released again on October 24, 2017.
In 2019, the government announced plans for an extradition law that would have allowed criminals to be extradited from Hong Kong to China and tried there. Many protesters feared that this would make it even easier for China to disarm political opponents. From the beginning of June 2019, mass protests and riots began, some of them violent. The reason for the more violent behavior this time than in 2014, was the fear of being ignored again. Joshua Wong was also one of the leaders of these protests. On September 5, Carrie Lam, the head of the Hong Kong government, announced that she would withdraw the law.
In early December 2020, Wong was sentenced to 13.5 months in prison for an unauthorized demonstration in June 2019.
Joshua Wong is currently in prison in Hong Kong. He was arrested in January 2021, and the charge against him and 46 other activists is conspiracy to overthrow. They are accused of organizing and participating in the unofficial pro-democracy party primaries in 2020. Since March 2022, Wong has been back in Stanley Maximum Security Prison, where he is allowed 15 minutes of visitation each day. In the prison he was in before, he was only allowed 30 minutes of visitation every two weeks. After more than a year in prison without a trial, it is scheduled to take place soon.
Author: Raphael Braune, student at Gymnasium Eickel in Herne. Member of “AG-Menschenrechte” 2021/22.
Joshua Wong. “Unfree Speech. Nur wenn alle ihre Stimme erheben, retten wir die Demokratie.” Fischer Verlag, 2020.
Header image: Protest march in Hong Kong in 2019 against the extradition law, in support of the imprisoned activists. Copyright: Studio Incendo – IMG_20190616_171444 (CC BY 2.0)