Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement,” is officially running for a seat in the city’s legislature, despite the new national security law imposed by Beijing.
Wong filed his candidacy papers Monday to run in the September legislative elections. He was one of several young activists and so-called “localist” candidates who won a majority of races in unofficial primaries staged more than a week ago by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy parties, despite warnings from both Hong Kong and China that the vote might run afoul of the new national security law.
Pro-democracy forces are aiming to win a parliamentary majority that could block the passage of the budget and other key legislation, and thereby force the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Holding up his application for candidacy, Wong said that even with the possibility of being extradited to China and imprisoned, “I still hope to run for office and receive people’s mandate, and let the world know that we will continue our fight until our last breath.”
Under the new law, anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power, or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted. Chinese state media have repeatedly accused Wong and other prominent pro-democracy figures of “collusion with foreign powers” for their engagements with the U.S. and other foreign governments.
The 23-year-old Wong was one of the leaders of the massive demonstrations that shut down much of Hong Kong in an unsuccessful attempt to win full democracy for the self-autonomous city.
The new national security law was a response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the last half of 2019.
Western governments and human rights advocates say the measure effectively ends the autonomy guaranteed under the pact that switched control of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997.