In Depth

Where is Joshua Wong?

Pro-democracy activist reportedly bundled into unmarked car on Hong Kong street

Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong and two other prominent activists have been arrested in a police crackdown following three months of protests in the Chinese-controlled territory.

Police officials say that Demosisto party leaders Wong and Agnes Chow were detained earlier today in connection with a 21 June rally where protestors blockaded police headquarters for 15 hours, reports the BBC.

The announcement follows the arrest yesterday of independence campaigner Andy Chan, who is being held on suspicion of rioting and assaulting a police officer during protests. He was arrested at Hong Kong airport while waiting for a flight to Tokyo, says the South China Morning Post.

The trio are among around 900 people arrested since the demonstrations began in June, sparked by a bill that would allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China. Although the bill has now been suspended, the protests have evolved into pro-democracy marches that have attracted crowds of up to two million people.

Confirming Wong’s arrest, the Demosisto party said in a statement on Facebook that he had been “arrested at roughly 7:30 this morning en route to the South Horizons MTR station, when he was suddenly pushed into a private car on the street”.

He was then taken to police headquarters in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district, where Chow is also being held after being arrested at her home.

Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said the arrests were “ludicrous” and “an outrageous assault on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”, reports regional newspaper The Standard.

“This past week, we have seen scare tactics straight out of Beijing’s playbook: pro-democracy protest organisers attacked by thugs, prominent activists arrested after being snatched from their homes and streets, and a major rally planned for Saturday banned,” he said.

Who is Joshua Wong?

Joshua Wong is the secretary general of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Demosisto party.

His activist career started at the age of 14, when he and classmate Ivan Lam Long-yin established a student protest group, Scholarism, to protest against a new “patriotic” school curriculum in 2011.

In 2014, Wong was dubbed “the face of protest” after playing a prominent role in demonstrations against proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system that would have allowed pre-screening of political candidates by China’s ruling Communist Party. The uprising was dubbed the “Umbrella Movement”, because activists used umbrellas to shield themselves from police pepper spray.

Wong was convicted of civil disobedience and sentenced to two months in prison. He was released from prison on 17 June, reports CNBC.

Neither he nor Chow have played a leading role in the current protests, but Wong has attended some of the marches and has spoken publicly in support of the demonstrators’ demands. 

What will happen now?

The Demosisto party says that Wong has been charged with three offences. It is unclear what these charges are, reports Hong Kong Free Press.

Issac Cheng, vice-chair of Demosisto, has accused the Hong Kong government of ordering the arrests in order “to spread white terror among the Hong Kong protesters and Hongkongers”.

“They are accusing Demosisto members and different high-profile activists in the movement to try to create a fictional atmosphere that there are leaders leading the campaign… But I have to emphasise that, for the movement, it is recognised as leaderless and organisation-less, so there are no single leaders that can be leading the whole movement,” he insisted.

Joseph Cheng, a retired political scientist, told The Guardian: “This is something the government can do – massive arrests to dry up and sap the strength of the protest movement.”

Meanwhile, a rally scheduled on Saturday by protest-movement the Civil Human Rights Front has been cancelled after authorities refused to grant permission for the demonstration to take place.

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