Joshua Wong is the 17-year-old Hong Kongese teenager at the forefront of the Umbrella Revolution and a founding member of the student protest group Scholarism. Here’s what you need to know about the young revolutionary.
1. He’s Not Old Enough to Vote
Being only 17-years-old, Wong is not yet old enough to vote in Hong Kong.
However, that hasn’t stopped him from being politically active in the Umbrella Revolution, or even before it began.
In fact, Wong is a founding member of the student protest group Scholarism, which was founded in 2011 with fellow convenor Ivan Lam. They founded it in response to their disgust of mainland China’s introduction of pro-communist education into Hong Kong public schools. Hong Kong is an autonomous region of China.
Scholarism grew beyond Wong and Lam’s wildest dreams. By September 2012, the group had more than 150,000 and began to organize major youth democratic movements, including sit-ins, hunger strikers, to all out government building occupations.
Scholarism helped organize the Umbrella Revolution.
2. The Umbrella Revolution
The Umbrella Revolution is the latest response to grievances claimed by Hong Kongese against the capital Beijing.
Because of Hong Kong’s peculiar history, it is an autonomous region, meaning it has independence from an external authority, e.g. Beijing.
Hong Kong has this classification because up until 1997, it belonged to the British Crown and was run as a capitalist enclave. After Britain ceded Hong Kong to China, a precedent called “One Country, Two Systems” was implemented where Hong Kong was allowed to continue running itself as a capitalist territory in contrast to mainland China’s communism.
This summer, Beijing announced that for the first time, Hong Kong would be allowed to vote for its city’s “chief executive” in 2017, which is similar to the mayoral position of Hong Kong.
However, stipulations by Beijing stated that Hong Kong could only vote for candidates that the capital had vetted, which would be undoubtedly friendly towards communism.
Hong Kong revolted, led by Wong and a burgeoning group called “Occupy Central”, named after Hong Kong’s Central District, where its financial center is located.
3. Wong is Arrested
On September 26, Wong organized 60 protesters into occupying a courtyard in front of government headquarters in Hong Kong in response to Beijing’s election rigging.
After a night of scuffles with police and pepper spray, Wong and 60 individuals were arrested.
Mr Wong, 17, was dragged away in handcuffs, a student leader from Hong Kong University said.
They arrested more than 60 people after a night of scuffles, with police using pepper spray to restore order. Nearly 30 people were hurt.
However, Wong’s arrest did not cause the protests to die down.
The students’ boycott is seen as a prelude to a larger demonstration planned for 1 October, organised Occupy Central, which has vowed to block the financial district.
Hong Kong operates under a “one country, two systems” arrangement with Beijing, which means citizens are allowed the right to protest.
Wong has since been released by police.
4. Beijing is Investigating Wong
Beijing is investigating Wong and views him as an enemy of the status quo.
“Mainland China is a tinderbox that’s been physically suppressed by the authorities, and Hong Kong is a seed of fire.
“The Communist Party is very scared of this tiny bit of land, because if true universal suffrage can blossom in Hong Kong, it is very likely true universal suffrage will end up happening in the mainland.”
It further states that activists involved with Wong should prepare for the worst.
5. Tiananmen Square Massacre
The world is drawing similarities to Wong’s Umbrella Revolution and the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which occurred 25-years ago.
Similarly, the Tiananmen Square Massacre was a response to student-led protests against communist China leadership in Beijing.
Beijing responded by deploying tanks and enforcing martial law. Reported death tolls range from hundreds to thousands.
The incident is against the law to speak about in China.