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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Hong Kong in 2014. Has Beijing managed to neutralise


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


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


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


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


movement. Because our movement is just motivated by the undemocratic


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


democracy, against the largest authoritarian regime in the world.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


because you guys in the pro-democracy movement rejected


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


you regard her as completely illegitimate, given the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


disobedience and confrontation and protest again. But as you have


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


of community service for your activities during the protest


movement of 2014? Yes, for participating in an unauthorised


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


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


you might organise street demonstrations, perhaps you might


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


after 12 hours detained, the government officials just say that


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


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


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


because Beijing sees your political movement as ultimately threatening


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


disobedience or just the moderates fighting for democracy just like the


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


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


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


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


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


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


not explicitly advocating independence for Hong Kong, art, you


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Special Administrative Region was, in terms of sovereignty, an


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


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


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


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


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


what we are afraid is, without referendum or without the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


straight activism and elections are a bit different. Straight activism


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


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


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


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


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


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


Kong, the political economy or cultural sector has the future


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


senators, including Marco Rubio, former Republican presidential


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


international committee to support Hong Kong democracy movement. It is


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


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


declaration. So they gain the responsibility to monitor the


implementation of one country, two systems.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


would have more expectation in legislation rather than the


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


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


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


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


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


the world from governments and legislatures. We have to push


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


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


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


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


starting point for the umbrella movement generation and what we hope


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


China is now very important economically and globally, one of


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


think you will rally international support for democracy in Hong Kong


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


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


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


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


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


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


nor the international treaty, ignored a promise in a joint


declaration, how can the British government insured China will rely


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


jobs, Chinese people with qualifications coming and taking


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


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


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


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


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


the difficulty for young qualified Hong Kong people getting decent jobs


with good salaries. These are probably things that engage Hong


Kong people more than your theoretical discussion of universal


suffrage and changing the way in which the Chief Executive is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


we are one who cares about peoples livelihoods, housing problems


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


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


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


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


identified with the umbrella protests and many were struck by how


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


still give me enough flexibility compared to other parents in Hong


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


amount of idealism, and maybe sometimes a certain amount of


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


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


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


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


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


way that China is ever going to relinquish its political and


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


people feel that way? I knew especially through the umbrella


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


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


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


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


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


when you first experienced sovereignty, Chinese rule, I think


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


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


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


fight for democracy or protecting the rule of law and judicial


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


you very much, appreciate it.


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?