Joshua Wong, secretary general of Demosisto Party, Hong Kong HARDtalk


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Joshua Wong, secretary general of Demosisto Party, Hong Kong

Stephen Sackur talks to Joshua Wong, a leader of the so-called umbrella pro-democracy protests that swept Hong Kong in 2014.


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Welcome to HARDtalk, I'm Stephen Sackur.

:00:00.:00:10.

Later this month, a new chief executive will be voted into office

:00:11.:00:13.

Elected not by the people, but by 1000 or so members of the

:00:14.:00:26.

territory's economic and political elite, tied closely to the Beijing

:00:27.:00:31.

government. And that is far short of the universal Suffrage demanded by

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my guest today. Joshua Wong was a teenage student when he became a

:00:37.:00:42.

leader of the so-called Umbrella pro-democracy protests that swept

:00:43.:00:43.

Hong Kong in 2014. Has Beijing managed to neutralise

:00:44.:00:44.

Hong Kong's youthful rebels? Thank you. So Hong Kong is about to

:00:45.:01:23.

get a new chief executive. He will be selected, he will not be elected,

:01:24.:01:31.

by the general population. And that is a sign of the failure of your

:01:32.:01:35.

pro-democracy movement, isn't it? I don't think it is in favour of our

:01:36.:01:39.

movement. Because our movement is just motivated by the undemocratic

:01:40.:01:44.

system, which means, rather than allowing us more social selection,

:01:45.:01:49.

as you mentioned, it would be great for Hong Kong people to deserve

:01:50.:01:53.

democracy, with one person, one vote. Well, that is what you wanted.

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And you brought tens of thousands of people onto the street in the late

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summer, the autumn of 2014, you demanded with both the Hong Kong

:02:03.:02:06.

authorities and by extension, frankly, with Beijing as well. And

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of course, nothing happened. Regime did not give you a single

:02:12.:02:15.

concession. Three years ago we created Hong Kong history, with

:02:16.:02:19.

100,000 people occupying on the street, it resulted in the Umbrella

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movement. However, it is a long-term battle for us to fight for

:02:24.:02:27.

democracy, against the largest authoritarian regime in the world.

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So from my point of view, it is a long-term battle. We can win in the

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battle, what I believe finally we can win in this war -- can't win.

:02:37.:02:42.

That he is, someone said as a battle in which you shot yourself the foot.

:02:43.:02:46.

It was on offer at the time back in 2014 was at least the idea that,

:02:47.:02:50.

after a first round of selection which would be handled by the small

:02:51.:02:55.

coterie of elite people, then finally the two or three nominees

:02:56.:02:58.

that came out of that committee would be put before the people. But

:02:59.:03:02.

because you guys in the pro-democracy movement rejected

:03:03.:03:06.

that, that is not going to happen. So there is no sense of a popular

:03:07.:03:10.

involvement in this decision at all, and that is your fault. From the

:03:11.:03:15.

definition of the Communist Party of China, they would say that the China

:03:16.:03:20.

government will choose... Field candidates for you to elect

:03:21.:03:24.

election. But I would say that, if there is a screening process to deny

:03:25.:03:29.

or reject all of the pro-democracy politicians to be the candidates of

:03:30.:03:35.

the elections, it is not a democratic election at all. So what

:03:36.:03:39.

will your view be of the likely winner of this chief executive race?

:03:40.:03:45.

Because we don't know yet, it looks as though Carrie Lam... Well, let's

:03:46.:03:52.

call it selection. Carrie Lam, it looks as though she is the likely

:03:53.:03:55.

winner of this process. She is deemed to be close to Beijing, she

:03:56.:03:59.

has already had a senior position in the executive of Hong Kong. Would

:04:00.:04:04.

you regard her as completely illegitimate, given the

:04:05.:04:06.

circumstances? Carrie Lam being elected, it would be a nightmare at

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all. And I would say that he would be the chief executive of Hong Kong

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after the 26th of March is not dependent on the Hong Kong people or

:04:15.:04:23.

Hong Kong elite. It depends on President Xi. So whether the

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president of China will elect Carrie Lam, at this stage, no one knows.

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What we can do is just clearly request and uphold what we believe

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in, which means democracy, and continuing to fight in the future.

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But just to be clear, you would regard the winner of that selection

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process, and that hypothetically say it is likely to be Carrie Lam, you

:04:44.:04:47.

regard her sitting there with no mandate, no legitimacy whatsoever.

:04:48.:04:50.

It is lack of legitimacy from people, because we can't vote in an

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election. So how come we can say that the executive, which means the

:04:56.:04:59.

leader of Hong Kong, is representing Hong Kong citizens? So will you try

:05:00.:05:03.

to get people out on the street again? Because the issue here is

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what sort of amount you have, and indeed what sort of achievement is

:05:08.:05:11.

the pro-democracy movement can ever hope to garner -- what sort of

:05:12.:05:16.

momentum. Because we look at the record, and Frankie, as I say, you

:05:17.:05:20.

don't appear to have achieved very much. Yes, I would say that the

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chief executive election day will be a date when we come out with civil

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disobedience and confrontation and protest again. But as you have

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mentioned, according to the track record of experience in the Umbrella

:05:31.:05:35.

movements, even Occupy on the street, it can result with a

:05:36.:05:38.

positive gain. And at this stage, the Hong Kong people are still far

:05:39.:05:45.

away from democracy. But what I have learnt in Umbrella movement is we

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can't only rely on street activism, but also get into the institution.

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That is why Nathan Law, one of the student leaders, has run in the

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election last year had been elected to be the youngest MP in Hong Kong.

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You are I think were sentenced by a Hong Kong court to was at 80 hours

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of community service for your activities during the protest

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movement of 2014? Yes, for participating in an unauthorised

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assembly. So you are telling the civil disobedience is on the cards

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for the day of the selection, March 26, the new chief executive. Perhaps

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you might organise street demonstrations, perhaps you might

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confront the police, I don't know. But how far are you prepared to push

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this? I mean you are a young man, you are a student, you are 20 years

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old. You want to go to prison? I expect to pay the price for

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democracy. That is why before Umbrella movement, in 2014 until

:06:38.:06:41.

now, I expected to one pushing forward the civil disobedience. One

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day, I I may need to go into jail, but the fight for democracy, you

:06:49.:06:53.

need to pay the price for it. You are in London, with Nathan Law, you

:06:54.:06:57.

save. We have had him on the programme not too long ago. You two

:06:58.:07:01.

other poster boys, if I can put it that way, for the youthful

:07:02.:07:08.

pro-democracy so-called Umbrella protest movement. I am just

:07:09.:07:12.

wondering, already faced threats. I have heard that you were threatened

:07:13.:07:16.

when you tried to travel to Taiwan, you had a crowd of people who were

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shouting curses at you. Somebody apparently tried to punch you in the

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face at one point. Are you scared? Sometimes I am tired, or

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downhearted, but I know what I've done, and what I commit is valuable.

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According to a previous experience, being an activist in Hong Kong is

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not easy. As you have mentioned, while we have visited Taiwan and

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back to Hong Kong, the pro-China, Maoists and gangsters almost just

:07:51.:07:54.

assault us in the airport, Nathan Law being the elected legislator has

:07:55.:08:00.

even been sent to the hospital. I have been blacklisted by the men in

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China government, and even last October I visited Bangkok and the

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Thai government just locked me and sent me to the detention cell,

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saying that, sorry, you are a troublemaker and we will not allow

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you to enter Thailand. And after I took the flight back to Hong Kong,

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after 12 hours detained, the government officials just say that

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Thailand will blacklist Joshua Wong forever. You know why this is

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happening, don't you? You are seen by Beijing as a threat not just

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because you talk about democratic values, basic human freedoms, it is

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because Beijing sees your political movement as ultimately threatening

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separatism and independence, and that is something that is a red line

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which the Beijing government will never accept. In fact, from the

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point of view of Beijing, independence would have been a red

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line for them. And for my political party and myself, we do not advocate

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independence, and what we hope is to fight for general autonomy for Hong

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Kong. Yes, you see, this is where I don't understand your position. You

:09:13.:09:15.

say we're not talking about independence, we are just took it of

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determination. What if you are talking about self-determination and

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of course all options are on the table. You are leaving it to the

:09:23.:09:26.

joys of the Hong Kong people as to how they want to be governed in the

:09:27.:09:30.

future. One of those options has to be separation and independence or

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are you saying that is definitely off the table? I think we can answer

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this question in two aspects. The first one is the matter that civil

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disobedience or just the moderates fighting for democracy just like the

:09:41.:09:45.

former legislature, all of that are also being labelled as pro-

:09:46.:09:49.

independence. So I would say that if Beijing put a label on everyone and

:09:50.:09:54.

labelled them as pro- independence activists, it is meaningless.

:09:55.:09:58.

According to your question, as well, self-determination means that we are

:09:59.:10:04.

also part of the independence movement of Hong Kong. I would say

:10:05.:10:08.

that absolutely not at all. Well, hang on. In April 2016 you said I am

:10:09.:10:15.

not explicitly advocating independence for Hong Kong, art, you

:10:16.:10:18.

went on, we think independents might be one of the options. So come on,

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which is it? You either are or you are not prepared to countenance

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independence? I would love to answer this question, and I am not the one

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who advocate independence, but I would say that Hong Kong, being a

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former colony of the British government, it will be usual for us

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to get the right to determine the sovereignty and constitution of Hong

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Kong in a decolonisation process of Hong Kong in the last century. Hang

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on, you know that the Basic Law is there. The deal between the former

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colonial power, Great Britain, and China, or quite clear. The Hong Kong

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Special Administrative Region was, in terms of sovereignty, an

:11:01.:11:06.

inalienable part of China. The most significant point is the joint

:11:07.:11:11.

declaration will have and expiry date, according to the policy, the

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joint declaration was signed in 1984, it will be in fermented since

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1997 until 2047. However, what will be the situation of Hong Kong after

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2047? With the expiry date of the joint declaration, no one knows. And

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what we are afraid is, without referendum or without the

:11:31.:11:33.

authorisation of Hong Kong people, it will just result in one country,

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one system. You see no one knows what will happen after 2047, but I

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think it is quite clear everyone knows that China and letting Hong

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Kong go. I mean, that is just inconceivable. In fact, most Hong

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Kongers themselves, most people who live in the territory, feel that as

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well. And Reuters did an interesting survey last year in which only one

:11:56.:12:00.

in six people in Hong Kong supported in any way, any sympathy for

:12:01.:12:04.

independence. The clear majority were against the idea, because Hong

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Kongers are realistic people, even if you're not. I would say that,

:12:09.:12:13.

being an activist, and also being one who leads a political party and

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organise the election campaign last year, I know the logic behind

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straight activism and elections are a bit different. Straight activism

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it is just necessary to get a critical minorities to support joint

:12:27.:12:33.

action. Before an election you need a critical majority to vote for you.

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But I would say that, according to the survey, as you mentioned, of

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course, the majority of Hong Kong people disagree on Hong Kong

:12:41.:12:44.

independence. But I will say that, no matter whether people agree or

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disagree on Hong Kong independence, what we hope is, after 2047 for Hong

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Kong, the political economy or cultural sector has the future

:12:55.:12:59.

arrangement of Hong Kong, it will be decided by Hong Kong people, rather

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than just an order from the Beijing government saying it is time to put

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aside judicial independence, rule of aside judicial independence, rule of

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law, and if you put aside without any pressure from Hong Kong, all

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without any reaction from Hong Kong people, it will just be a nightmare

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for us. Do you worry that you are being used as a puppet by countries

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hostile to China? I am thinking in particular of the United States. Not

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long ago you went to Washington. You were received very warmly by

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senators, including Marco Rubio, former Republican presidential

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candidate, who is certainly know not to be a great friend of Beijing. And

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he saluted here, and he sponsored another piece of legislation that he

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wanted to get through the US Congress, which the Chinese thought

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was blatantly anti- Chinese. I just wonder, there is a danger you are

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going to be seen as a tool in the pocket of the United States. I don't

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think I will be used as a tool in the United States. Of course, for

:13:56.:13:58.

the pro-China propaganda they will say that I am one of the CIA agents,

:13:59.:14:03.

and that I am controlled or funded by the US government. Or even

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claimed that I am trained by the US Marines, it is ridiculous. But

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referring to your question, I would say that what we hope is to get the

:14:12.:14:15.

international committee to support Hong Kong democracy movement. It is

:14:16.:14:20.

not because only focusing on the moral reason. It is because the US

:14:21.:14:25.

government or UK government is the ones who signed off, and the joint

:14:26.:14:29.

declaration. So they gain the responsibility to monitor the

:14:30.:14:32.

implementation of one country, two systems.

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But they're not, Abe, looking at the allies you might want to have in the

:14:35.:14:42.

discussion with how Hong Kong can determine its democratic rights, the

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UK government isn't doing much, the US and government is now led by

:14:47.:14:49.

Donald Trump, who clearly sees his relationship with China in terms of

:14:50.:14:53.

trade and currency but he really doesn't seem to put it in terms of

:14:54.:14:57.

human rights and democratic values. I still appreciate his phone call

:14:58.:15:03.

with the president of Taiwan. Things are changing because Mr Trump says

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his administration is committed to the one China policy. That's why

:15:08.:15:11.

there's uncertainty for the Trump administration and that's why I

:15:12.:15:16.

would have more expectation in legislation rather than the

:15:17.:15:20.

administration. You say, I'll have some hope of getting support from

:15:21.:15:25.

legislatures, but you're not getting support. In material terms, since

:15:26.:15:30.

you launch your umbrella protest, and now you have your own new party

:15:31.:15:35.

and a handful of representatives in the Legislative Council, tell me, in

:15:36.:15:39.

material terms, what level of support you're getting from around

:15:40.:15:43.

the world from governments and legislatures. We have to push

:15:44.:15:48.

forward to help the democracy movement in Hong Kong and in the UK

:15:49.:15:52.

we are questing and arranging a hearing in the parliament. In the

:15:53.:15:57.

US, as you mentioned, there is a cross-party bill which is called the

:15:58.:16:00.

Hong Kong human rights and democracy act and what we hope is it will be a

:16:01.:16:04.

starting point for the umbrella movement generation and what we hope

:16:05.:16:10.

is after the end of the Umbrella Movement, we want a positive result.

:16:11.:16:14.

China is now very important economically and globally, one of

:16:15.:16:18.

the two most powerful economies in the entire world, do you really

:16:19.:16:21.

think you will rally international support for democracy in Hong Kong

:16:22.:16:26.

when China is so clearly against it and China is now frankly seen around

:16:27.:16:30.

the world as one of the most vital strategic partners. Supporting

:16:31.:16:36.

democracy and Hong Kong does not... What I mean if Hong Kong has a lack

:16:37.:16:40.

of rule of law and judicial independence, how can it ensure

:16:41.:16:45.

economic freedom and also protect the business interests? What I would

:16:46.:16:49.

like to say, especially for the British audience, if how China is

:16:50.:16:52.

nor the international treaty, ignored a promise in a joint

:16:53.:16:57.

declaration, how can the British government insured China will rely

:16:58.:17:00.

on its miss on the future trade deal? Are you in anyway a China

:17:01.:17:09.

Afobe, a sign of Vogue, there are certain statements that have come

:17:10.:17:14.

out of the localised movement in Hong Kong which smacked of a

:17:15.:17:18.

prejudice Chinese people and China. I would say I am ethnically Chinese

:17:19.:17:25.

and I am against the China Communist Party regime but not against Chinese

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people. What about your colleague, Nathan Law, who said, and I actually

:17:31.:17:34.

put this quote to him some time ago, a lot of people think we don't know

:17:35.:17:39.

China so we hate them but actually it's different. We know China and

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that's why we hate them. I would say that we hope to know more about

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China. Do you hate the Chinese? No, I don't hate the Chinese and I hope

:17:49.:17:52.

to know more about Chinese culture and what's happened inside mainland

:17:53.:17:59.

China, unfortunately after the end of Umbrella Movement I've been

:18:00.:18:03.

blacklisted and I can't enter mainland China. I suppose what I'm

:18:04.:18:07.

getting at is whether you're interested in aligning yourself with

:18:08.:18:10.

some of the more populist elements in Hong Kong who are very angry

:18:11.:18:14.

about certain things they see as problems coming from China. For

:18:15.:18:17.

example, Chinese people coming across the border, spending a lot of

:18:18.:18:22.

money, raising prices in Hong Kong shops. Some have been referred to as

:18:23.:18:26.

locusts by elements inside Hong Kong. There's also concern about

:18:27.:18:30.

jobs, Chinese people with qualifications coming and taking

:18:31.:18:34.

jobs that used to go to Hong Kong people. Are you prepared to ally

:18:35.:18:41.

yourself with these... You could call them nationalists beaming is in

:18:42.:18:44.

Hong Kong. I wouldn't recognise myself as one of the local lists and

:18:45.:18:49.

I'm not one who agrees on Hong Kong nationalism. Would you not

:18:50.:18:53.

acknowledge that people in Hong Kong care more about the housing crisis,

:18:54.:18:57.

the difficulty for young qualified Hong Kong people getting decent jobs

:18:58.:19:01.

with good salaries. These are probably things that engage Hong

:19:02.:19:05.

Kong people more than your theoretical discussion of universal

:19:06.:19:09.

suffrage and changing the way in which the Chief Executive is

:19:10.:19:12.

selected. I think your point is explaining the reason we run in the

:19:13.:19:16.

election, during the Umbrella Movement a lot of residence in Hong

:19:17.:19:21.

Kong said they support democracy and I have quite a good impression on

:19:22.:19:25.

the democracy movement but it is possible for you to have emphasis on

:19:26.:19:31.

more issues like the housing issues, social welfare, liberal rights, not

:19:32.:19:35.

only emphasis on political reform. That's why since last year we found

:19:36.:19:38.

a political party and ran in the election and what we have proved to

:19:39.:19:44.

Hong Kong citizens, we hope to put our thoughts to fight for democracy

:19:45.:19:48.

and urge for a political system reform. But also on the other hand

:19:49.:19:55.

we are one who cares about peoples livelihoods, housing problems

:19:56.:19:59.

transport problems, and in Hong Kong only 20% of high school students can

:20:00.:20:05.

go to university. It's the lowest rate compared to any big country.

:20:06.:20:10.

Let me ask you more about your personal situation, it strikes me as

:20:11.:20:13.

very interesting, we know your place around the world because you

:20:14.:20:16.

identified with the umbrella protests and many were struck by how

:20:17.:20:19.

young you were but you started becoming an activist when you were

:20:20.:20:24.

even younger. 14 years old. 14 years old. You were beginning to think it

:20:25.:20:30.

was worth while it was good to activate with your student peers in

:20:31.:20:33.

high school to make a political noise but it has cost you a lot.

:20:34.:20:37.

Now, as you said, you are blacklisted by Beijing, it's going

:20:38.:20:41.

to affect your future career prospects and life. How do you cope

:20:42.:20:45.

with that? Of course it is hard for me to seek any job inside government

:20:46.:20:49.

or work in the business sector, but I would say if the young generation

:20:50.:20:54.

can't see the future of Hong Kong, how can I see my future? What do

:20:55.:21:00.

your parents say? My parents strongly support me. They are the

:21:01.:21:08.

ones who are not activists, not a guy in politics every day, but they

:21:09.:21:12.

still give me enough flexibility compared to other parents in Hong

:21:13.:21:16.

Kong mostly according to the Chinese culture, where they forced their

:21:17.:21:20.

students to focus on examinations and enter the best university, the

:21:21.:21:25.

professional and get upward mobility into the middle-class. There's

:21:26.:21:30.

enormous pressure in Hong Kong to do well, strive and achieve. You bust

:21:31.:21:36.

all of those stereotypes. It is lucky that my parents are more

:21:37.:21:42.

open-minded. Let me ask you this, you're a young man and I don't in

:21:43.:21:46.

anyway want to sound patronising, but with youth comes a certain

:21:47.:21:50.

amount of idealism, and maybe sometimes a certain amount of

:21:51.:21:53.

naivete. There are people who look at the reality of China's grip upon

:21:54.:21:58.

Hong Kong, the massive dominance that China has when it comes to any

:21:59.:22:03.

discussion of Hong Kong's political future, the economic reliance of

:22:04.:22:07.

Hong Kong on China. Then they listen to you and think, there's a spirited

:22:08.:22:11.

young man who is going to change his views as he gets older. There's no

:22:12.:22:16.

way that China is ever going to relinquish its political and

:22:17.:22:19.

economic control and grip on Hong Kong. Do you recognise that many

:22:20.:22:24.

people feel that way? I knew especially through the umbrella

:22:25.:22:27.

movement the number of people agree or disagree on the movement, it

:22:28.:22:31.

would come down to the occupied zone and have discussions with me and I

:22:32.:22:36.

know more about their ideas. I would say there's always discussion and

:22:37.:22:40.

debate is about whether China relies more on Hong Kong or Hong Kong

:22:41.:22:44.

relies more on China, especially with the capital... Even in 1997

:22:45.:22:49.

when you first experienced sovereignty, Chinese rule, I think

:22:50.:22:56.

Hong Kong was worth almost 15% of China's GDP, it's now down to

:22:57.:23:00.

something like 3%. The leverage in the relationship is changing every

:23:01.:23:04.

year and always going in the direction of Beijing. I would say

:23:05.:23:07.

fight for democracy or protecting the rule of law and judicial

:23:08.:23:11.

independence, in fact we are facing the largest authoritarian regime or

:23:12.:23:16.

the second largest economic power in the world. If you asked whether we

:23:17.:23:26.

would achieve the mocha see in the next two or three years, I would say

:23:27.:23:30.

it is hard for us to achieve immediately in the short-term, but

:23:31.:23:33.

that's why at the start of the interview I said it's a long-term

:23:34.:23:38.

battle -- democracy. Some people said why is the young generation

:23:39.:23:42.

focused on self-determination, why don't you focus on one country, two

:23:43.:23:48.

systems. The fact is, one country, two systems, after the end of 50

:23:49.:23:54.

years unchanged policy, in 2047 I am 51 years old and I hope that no

:23:55.:23:58.

matter what will be the sovereignty of Hong Kong at this point, we still

:23:59.:24:04.

ensure human rights, rule of law, judicial independence and we won't

:24:05.:24:08.

let Hong Kong exist as Hong Kong and not just exist in name only. You are

:24:09.:24:14.

not leaving this battlefield? Yeah, I will not leave it. Joshua Wong,

:24:15.:24:18.

thank you for being on HARDtalk. Thank you very much indeed. Thank

:24:19.:24:22.

you very much, appreciate it.

:24:23.:24:23.

Stephen Sackur speaks to Joshua Wong, a leader of the so-called umbrella pro-democracy protests that swept Hong Kong in 2014.

Later this month a new chief executive will be voted into office in Hong Kong. Elected by members of the territory's economic and political elite and tied closely to the Beijing government, activists are calling for universal suffrage in the territory instead. Has Beijing managed to neutralise Hong Kong's youthful rebels?