At age 18, Joshua Wong became the face of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, a protest urging the Chinese government to let Hong Kong residents elect their own leader as promised by the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of the city’s financial district for 2½ months. Beijing refused to back down: A 1,200-member election committee dominated by China sympathizers elected Carrie Lam as chief executive in 2017.

Wong co-founded a political party, Demosistō, served more than two months in prison for his role in the protests, and continues to champion democracy for Hong Kong today. On April 3, Wong appealed a three-month jail sentence resulting from his attempt to stop the clearance of a protest site in 2014. The court has not yet handed down a judgment on the appeal. I interviewed 22-year-old Wong, currently free on bail, in mid-March.

How did you first get involved in politics?

When I was 14, Beijing tried to introduce the patriotic education curriculum in Hong Kong. It forced students to embrace the Communist Party of China. I organized street demonstrations and mobilized more than 100,000 people to occupy the streets. We hoped to convince government officials it’s time for them to respect the voice of students and young people.

We successfully forced the government to withdraw the brainwashing school curriculum. Later on, we fought for free elections in 2014 with the Umbrella Movement. Many of us have been imprisoned. We hope to fight for Hong Kong’s freedom, whether political freedom, freedom of the press, or religious freedom. We want people to be aware of how Hong Kong is different from mainland China.

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