Joshua Wong, one of the key activists in the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, spoke on Sunday at an event in New York City; the appearance was part of an effort to rally international solidarity for his city's protest movement.
“Hong Kong is the new Berlin,” Wong said, referring to the protests in East Germany that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet bloc.
Wong’s talk, arranged by the group New Yorkers Who Support Hong Kong, also known as NY4HK, came in advance of a planned trip to Washington, D.C. on Monday. U.S. lawmakers are set to hold a hearing on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which could allow for sanctions on the Chinese government for interfering in Hong Kong’s autonomy. Prior to New York, Wong traveled to Berlin, where he met with Germany's foreign minister.
"Now is the time for the U.S. Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” Wong said. “The U.S. must recognize the human rights conditions in Hong Kong.”
Wong also urged the U.S. government to stop exporting weapons to Hong Kong police. Last month, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that tear gas used by Hong Kong police was manufactured in Pennsylvania.
The 22-year-old, who was one of several prominent activists arrested by Hong Kong police in late August, rose to fame after being one of the students who led the pro-democracy protests in 2014 known as the “Umbrella movement,” which is viewed by many as planting the seed for the current unrest. For more than three months, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong have been rallying in the streets, calling for government reforms that would grant the city more autonomy from mainland China. Although the protests were initially spurred by opposition to an extradition bill, they has since grown into a bigger movement that has garnered international attention.
The panel, which was held in the Marriott Marquis in Times Square and conducted mainly in Cantonese, also included Brian Leung, another activist who took part in the summer protests but has since been unable to return to Hong Kong.
Roughly 200 people attended the event, which started with the playing of a recently created song “Glory to Hong Kong” that has been adopted as the anthem for the city’s protesters.
In New York, and other cities, Hong Kong sympathizers have showed their support through rallies and the creation of Lennon Walls, which have become ad hoc protest displays.
But the issue has also sparked clashes within the Chinese community. In August, a Lennon Wall in Chinatown was vandalized several times with pro-Beijing slogans. Since that time, several new Lennon Walls have popped up across in city.
“Hong Kong is a free society with a lot of human ingenuity and energy,” Leung said, following the event. “I think that’s a lesson that the international community should pay attention to.”
Wong will be appearing at a panel of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China on Tuesday to discuss U.S.-Hong Kong relations (about 80,000 Americans live in Hong Kong). He told Business Insider that President Donald Trump might feel supportive of the pro-democracy efforts, "Lots of people might not agree with him, but absolutely he's aware of the negative impact or the nightmare if Hong Kong's economy [breaks down] — it will affect the world economy. He's a businessman."