Hong Kong’s 17-Year-Old ‘Extremist’ Student Leader Arrested During Massive Democracy Protest

HARRISON JACOBS / http://www.businessinsider.com

Joshua_Wong_Causeway_Bay_130604

Joshua Wong/Wikimedia CommonsJoshua Wong, the leader of the Scholarism movement in Hong Kong.

Joshua Wong, 17, a student protester and the leader of the “Scholarism” movement in Hong Kong, has reportedly been arrested by police during a student protest.

Wong was arrested along with four other demonstrators at Hong Kong government headquarters and has been accused of police assault, Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, president of the University of Hong Kong’s students’ union, told South China Morning Post. 

Tweets and pictures are currently coming in showing Wong being carried off by police:

View image on Twitter

Here are students chanting for the release of those arrested:

View image on Twitter

The incident comes at the end of weeklong student boycott protesting China’s rejection of full universal suffrage in the city, a development that had long been promised.

More than 5,000 high school and university students in Hong Kong have been protesting illegally outside of Hong Kong government headquarters in Tamar Park for the last five days. This evening, at least 100 of those students broke into Civic Square, a public space that has been sealed off for months.View image on Twitter

After the break-in, the police moved in with pepper spray to disband the protest and arrest those who broke into the area.

When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, it was agreed that the former colony would coexist with China under the principle of “one country, two systems,” meaning that Hong Kong would have a high degree of autonomy and eventually achieve genuine democracy. Those promises have never materialized, much to the chagrin of Hong Kong residents.

Last month, China announced that it would allow Hong Kongers to vote for their next leader in 2017 as promised, but that the candidates had to be approved by a Beijing-endorsed committee. Pro-democracy activists like Wong have said that the move will all but eliminate any hope of a real democratic choice.

The student protest has the wide support of many Hong Kongers. College administrators, faculty, and the city’s largest teachers’ union have all pledged their support. Most universities have said that students who participate in the protest will not be punished.

Meanwhile, Wong has been one of the leaders of the student movement since 2011. He began his activism at 15 years old after the central government attempted to introduce pro-Communist “National and Moral Education” into Hong Kong public schools. In response, Wong started the student protest movement Scholarism. In September 2012, the movement rallied 120,000 protesters and 13 hunger strikers to occupy Hong Kong government headquarters. Hong Kong’s leaders withdrew the proposal.

Scholarism’s success has galvanized Hong Kong’s youth into activism. Scholarism has 300 permanent student members, and they helped organized this past week’s protest.

Wong’s efforts have earned him the label of “extremist” from state-run media organization.

Though Wong has a mild-mannered and clean-cut disposition, his rhetoric does little to dispel the accusation of “extremism.”

“You have to see every battle as possibly the final battle — only then will you have the determination to fight [for democracy],” Wong recently told CNN.

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Independent journalist and funder of We Are Change, a grassroots media outlet.

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