The man behind the umbrella

Rod Wye reflects on Hong Kong protest leader’s fight for democracy.

The World Today Published 1 April 2020 Updated 28 September 2020 3 minute READ

Roderic Wye

Former Associate Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme

Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act, Now Joshua Wong, £9.99

Joshua Wong was born in 1997, the year of the handover of Hong Kong to China. At the time, 2047 – the date when the Joint Declaration’s promise of no change to Hong Kong’s political system expires – seemed a long way off.

It is certainly beyond the expected lifetime of those who had negotiated the handover and the ‘one country/two systems’ arrangement under which Hong Kong is governed and allowed to enjoy a ‘high degree of autonomy’.

For people of Wong’s generation, however, 2047 will come while they are in the prime of life and with it a huge uncertainty about their future. Already they have seen a steady and quickening erosion of many of the freedoms Hong Kong enjoyed, and a seemingly inexorable process in which the government in Beijing has been extending its influence throughout Hong Kong.

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