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Meet the Face of Hong Kong’s Occupy Movement: Joshua Wong

Joshua Wong

Joshua Wong, leader of Occupy Central, arrives at the National Day flag raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong on October 1st, 2014.

Jeff Topping/Polaris

The most dangerous man in the world’s fastest-growing country might be a scrawny college freshman. Joshua Wong, who was surrounded by thousands of pro-democracy activists when he turned 18 in October, is the reluctant public face of Hong Kong’s jubilant Occupy movement. Now in its eighth week, Occupy Central is demanding open elections in the semi-autonomous city, without interference from the Chinese government. “Many citizens have said to me, ‘Hong Kong relies on you,’ and some even called me a hero,” Wong posted on Facebook. “I feel uncomfortable and even irritated when I hear this praise.” 

Born a year before Britain returned Hong Kong to China, Wong was barely into his teens when he founded Scholarism, which brought 120,000 students into the streets in 2012 to successfully protest a national curriculum that glossed over the savagery of the Cultural Revolution and 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre. “We wanted to show that students are also civic members of society,” Wong said. Now, he’s on a knife-edge with the Chinese government, which announced in August it would vet all candidates for Hong Kong’s top post. In September, he was arrested at a protest where students cowered under umbrellas as they were tear-gassed by police. (The event inspired a video game, Yellow Umbrella, featuring Wong.) Meanwhile, Wong remains on message. “I’m optimistic Hong Kong will achieve universal suffrage,” he says, “no matter the attitude of Beijing.”    

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