Joshua Wong, the student leader who became the face of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement democracy protests in 2014, was released from prison today, and wasted no time in weighing on the furor over a controversial extradition bill that has rocked the city in recent days.
Wong was mobbed by media and supporters as he left Lai Chi Kok Correctional Institute, and immediately called on pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign, a demand shared by record-breaking crowds that turned out yesterday to oppose the bill, which would allow extradition to mainland China.
“She is no longer qualified to be Hong Kong’s leader,” Wong told reporters. “She must take the blame and resign, be held accountable and step down.”
BREAKING: Activist Joshua Wong who became the face of the Umbrella Movement in 2014 has been released from jail 1 month earlier than scheduled.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) June 17, 2019
Wong, 22, was sent to prison in May after he lost an attempt to quash a jail sentence over the huge democracy protests he helped lead in 2014.
He had been among several people accused of refusing to comply with an injunction to clear a protest site in Mong Kok on November 26, 2014, in the latter stages of the Umbrella Movement demonstrations. At the time, Wong and others were trying to prevent bailiffs from dispersing the camp after taxi and minibus groups sought a court order to clear the site.
His release comes amid even larger demonstrations, first brought on by mass public opposition to the extradition bill. However, the government’s intransigence in the face of criticism from a broad cross-section of society has seen protesters’ demands grow to include the resignation of Lam, who has also been blamed for the heavy-handed police response that broke up another major demonstration last Wednesday.
Lam’s announcement on Saturday that work on the bill would “pause,” and an apology issued during the height of yesterday’s enormous march, have done next to nothing to placate public disapproval of her administration.
Speaking to the media outside Lai Chi Kok, Wong called on protesters to continue their protests and civil disobedience campaign.
“We demand Carrie Lam to step down, completely withdraw the extradition law, and retract the ‘riot’ label,” he said, referring to Lam’s use of the term to describe protesters earlier in the week.
He also condemned authorities for firing tear gas and rubber bullets during violent clashes between protesters and police on Wednesday.
“When I was in jail, I saw Carrie Lam crying on the live television broadcast. All I can say is, when she shed tears, Hong Kong citizens were shedding blood in Admiralty,” he said, referring to the district where the clashes took place.