The protests against the Communist Party of China currently engulfing China have been described as largely a student-led movement, and within that movement, one teen has distinguished himself as a veteran activist, with wins against the Chinese government under his belt.
Joshua Wong has been protesting the oppressive maneuvers of the Chinese government against Hong Kong for years, despite his young age. Wong, leader of the Scholarism movement largely responsible for organizing thousands to protest Beijing’s move to increase its control over who governs Hong Kong, founded the movement when he was 14. He gained international attention at 15 for opposing the Chinese government’s attempt to impose “national education” on Hong Kong, a system widely believed to be intentionally universalist and designed to teach children loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.
Wong’s campaign against national education, The Guardian notes, was no small affair. He helped organize a rally of 100,000 against what residents saw as an unjustifiable imposition, and made clear the government had no mandate to impose the education measure. The resistance contributed to China’s choosing not to impose national education on Hong Kong.
With that victory under his belt, Wong has now focused on opposing China’s latest attempt to control the region. At the end of August, the Chinese government announced new measures that would require candidates for public office in Hong Kong to go through a screening by Beijing, meaning only candidates approved by China could appear on the ballot. While the move did not affect whether citizens could vote for the candidates, the limits on who they could vote for are considered by most pro-democracy protesters an outrageous imposition on Hong Kong’s democracy.
The backlash against the movement, which has attracted thousands in Hong Kong, has been dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution,” the umbrella being used to protect against tear gas and pepper spray.
In response to the protests, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has agreed to negotiations with the pro-democracy. The protesters are calling for Leung to step down, after police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse a protest this week.
“I want CY Leung to step down as soon as possible,” Joshua Wong told the tech outlet Mashable, asserting that any use of violence or insinuation that violence will be used on protesters is unacceptable. “When CY Leung was asked whether he would use a gun, he would not commit to not using a gun,” Wong explained. “I am quite disappointed with him because non-violence is our principle.”
Wong is speaking out now after having been arrested over the weekend. The Chinese government, through media outlets it controls, has accused Wong of being a creation of the U.S. government or other Western forces attempting to cause mischief against Beijing. Wong has, of course, denied such accusations, instead focusing on the issue of preserving the freedom Hong Kong enjoys under the “One Nation, Two Systems” government that the region agreed upon with Beijing when reincorporating into China.