The opportunity to meet Hongkong’s pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong at the Humboldt University on September 11 was just too good to pass up. The “Germany Stand with Hong Kong” organized “Salon in Berlin: Paradox of the Leaderless Movement in HK” as an opportunity for Joshua to answer the questions on :
1. How does Joshua see the development of the form of protest?
2. What are the struggles he has been facing as a former leader of protest?
Joshua Wong’s statement
May I begin by expressing gratitude and thanks to our friends in Germany. In the past two days, I feel enormously how people in Berlin are standing with us in Hongkong (HK). The air of freedom I breathe here, instead of irritative smell of teargas, reminds me of how important it is for me to share the thoughts of people attending the ongoing protests in HK right now, and over the past 14 weeks.
Last week, HK’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam had announced a full withdrawal of the extradition bill. We believe this is mere tactics, aimed to buy time and paint an illusion of peace before China’s National Day in October. A lot of people starts with this question: why are protestors still on the streets? However, if we look at the past 14 weeks, the people of HR have actually paid a substantial price for this tiny step. More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested over the past three months, with brutal, and excessive force used by police. Eight Hong Kongers took their own lives to show their conviction to the cause. Two young professionals lost some of their eyesight due to police brutality. Having come at such a huge and irreversible expense, it is unrealistic to call it a victory.
On Police brutality
In the course of the last three months, We have exhausted every peaceful means of expressing our discontent. But the situation deteriorates so quickly that what we are facing now is an increasingly barbaric level of force used by the police.
On 31st August, police stormed into a train compartment with batons and pepper spray, random attacking innocent passersby who were returning home after dinner. In another Metro station, the police fired at a close distance at protestor who are leaving the site. What is worse, they hinder the injured from receiving medical aids on various occasions, denying first-aiders’ request to provide medical support for those in need and even arrested patients in public hospitals. The following days a few metro stations were closed and Police took over the station like the Transport Police in Berlin in the 1960s. Yesterday, the police were even allowed to carry extendable batons while off-duty. Carrie Lam and her administration turn a blind eye to the police brutality of the past few months.
The numbers of arrested and injured themselves may seem solid and cold, but those are the friends and families that we love and care about. After seeing your friends died, your families injured, withdrawal of the bill is far from enough.
I hope to express our worrying concerns, in particular, over police’s indecent abuse.
In late August, I attended an assembly called #Protestoo in Central Charter Garden, in support of a lot of female protestors, who were sexually harassed by HK Police in the course of demonstrations and assembly, during arrest and detention. Testimonies from various female protestors reflected that male police officers would crawl on their body during the arrest, which the force they employed was wholly unnecessary. Besides, lawyers have reported that body strip search on arrested female protestor was actually conducted by male police officers. Some of these cases are captured and documented by journalists, but many more were happened closed-doors and without cameras.
These notorious acts are, unsurprisingly, denied by the HK authorities as groundless. But I would still urge Germany and Europe to condemn the barbaric acts of the police. Before denying the abuse allegations easily, any reasonable person would understand the power imbalance between an arrested person and a state-empowered police officer. We are aware of the fact that these power abuses went up to an excessive level as the HK authorities made up for their blunders.
While I appreciate my friends who dare to speak up after suffering these terrifying encounters, I feel obliged to emphasize our demand to an independent inquiry into the police brutality and power abuse. By looking at the abuses, investigating police who work against the law, it is the only practical and reasonable resolution to prevent HK from being a police state, and above all, to restore real trust between the people and the government.
Our cause on democracy
There is another reason under a greater context the protests in Hong Kong are not likely to stop because we will not yield from fighting for our fundamental freedoms and democracy. It is the basic civil rights and freedom enshrined in our constitution yet, again and again, these promises are not fulfilled by Beijing.
My colleague from Demosisto, Nathan Law, who was the youngest lawmaker in HK history, was disqualified and kicked out of the Parliament two years ago. Later, my Agnes Chow was also disqualified from running for office in our legislature because of my political affiliation. Edward Leung, Andy Chan and many others, are also disqualified as candidates because of their political stance.
Some of the points raised by Joshua in his statement and during the Q&A
1. HongKong is no longer even “one country, one and a half systems”
2. “Withdrawal of the extradition bill is not victory, even though it’s an achievement.
3. “Could Tiananmen Square happen again? My answer is: never say never”
4. Hong Kong is the new Berlin in the new Cold War. In light of the trade war, the Taiwan presidential election, and China’s desire to forge economic friendship with Germany, he asks for solidarity. “I hope Hong Kong will never walk alone”.
5. His talk with Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas mentioned that “political crisis must be solved by political system reform”, and that Germany must not be partner to police brutality.
6. “99% of the violence is coming from police”.
7. On Taiwan: he hopes it’s not a case of “today Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan” but rather, implying development in the other direction, “today Taiwan, tomorrow Hong Kong”.
8. On Western interference, he cites that “Hong Kong is a global city. Not only Beijing has a say on it.”
9. On the downside of a leaderless movement, he compares the Umbrella Movement, five years ago to a traditional encyclopedia. This year’s “summer of discontent”, is more like Wikipedia, meaning he’s no longer editor. “Anyone can engage in this movement spontaneously.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 where Joshua talks about organizing their protests through social media.
(Joshua Wong (22) is one of the most known young activists and politicians in Hong Kong. Wong started his public interest career by founding Hong Kong student activist group Scholarism in 2011, which managed to organise a political rally attended by over 100,000 people and pressured the government to withdraw the moral and national education proposal successfully. In 2014, Wong brought his influence into the Umbrella Movement and was regarded as one of the main student leaders, resulted in his inclusion in TIME magazine’s Most Influential Teens of 2014 and nomination for its 2014 Person of the Year.)