Occupy Central leader Joshua Wong speaks to the media after a vote at the city’s legislature in Hong Kong, June 18, 2015.
The face of last year’s pro-democracy Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, Joshua Wong, hit out on Thursday after being charged by police for his role in the mass protests for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The charges relate to a protest on Sept. 26 during which some Umbrella Movement protesters climbed into Civic Square, part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government complex.
Writing on his Facebook page, Wong said that the freedom of association, among a number of traditional freedoms that Beijing promised to uphold after the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, has been severely limited in the city in recent years.
“I would like to reiterate that if we went back in time to 2012 or 2013, we would be in a space where freedom to gather in public was allowed,” Wong said.
“But Civic Square isn’t a road, and in going there, we didn’t cause any obstruction to daily traffic, nor to the normal functioning of society,” he said.
He told reporters before entering the Wanchai police station on Thursday: “Today… is a political prosecution.”
He added: “My involvement in the Civic Square action is the best thing I have accomplished in the four years I’ve been involved in social student movements.”
“I won’t come to regret it… even if I have to pay the price,” Wong said.
Charges ‘totally flawed’
Wong’s lawyer Michael Vidler said the charges against his client were “totally flawed.”
“In my view it’s a clear abuse of process,” Vidler told reporters, as dozens of supporters waved the yellow umbrellas that became an icon of the pro-democracy after protesters used umbrellas to ward off tear gas and pepper spray fired by riot police.
Police also charged fellow student leader Alex Chow with taking part in an unlawful assembly, while Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) leader Nathan Law was charged with inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly.
The charges against Wong, Law, and Chow will be heard at a magistrates court on Sept. 2.
Deputy HKFS leader Lester Shum said the occupation of Civic Square had likely sent shock waves through the Hong Kong government.
“The occupation of Civic Square was a shock to this unjust system, and can be seen as a form of civil disobedience,” Shum said. “Contrary to what is claimed by [justice] secretary Rimsky Yuen, these charges are not apolitical.”
He compared the charges against Wong, Law and Chow with a lack of charges so far against seven police officers filmed by journalists beating up Civic Party member Ken Tsang in a dark area while they were clearing a main road of protesters during the Occupy movement.
“If they were genuinely apolitical, then those seven rogue cops … would have been charged by now,” Shum said.
Seven Hong Kong policemen were arrested in connection with Tsang’s beating last November on suspicion of “assault resulting in grievous body harm,” but have yet to be charged, prompting Tsang’s lawyers to apply for a judicial review.