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HKFP Interview: Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong on Xi’s UK visit, human rights and democracy

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Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong has been invited to the UK to give speeches at six universities. His visit coincides with President Xi Jinping’s state visit. Speaking to HKFP from London on Tuesday, Wong talked about the human rights protests in London, his speeches at Oxford University as well as why he often seemed to appear in the same place during Xi’s state visits.

joshua wong

Photo: StandNews.

HKFP: Last time when President Xi Jinping visited the US, you were in the US to attend events. This time Xi is visiting the UK and you’re giving speeches at British universities, was this a coincidence or did you do it on purpose?

Wong: 

Woah woah woah, this has nothing to do with me! Firstly, last time I was in the US to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Freedom House. I couldn’t decide when the Freedom House was founded, could I? It was before I was born, right? So I went to the US in the same week as Xi.

As for this week, Oxford Union, i.e. Oxford University’s student union, confirmed the date of visit with me as October 19 or 20 three months ago. The dates of Xi’s UK visit were not announced until a month ago, so I decided to go to the UK before Xi did. If you say I did it on purpose, it really wasn’t me. It was a coincidence. I wouldn’t intentionally try to avoid it, to say wherever Xi goes I cannot go. But both times we clashed [the visits].

吶吶吶,唔關我事。第一,美國Freedom House七十五週年紀念,Freedom House成立日期唔能夠由我決定吧?Freedom House仲早過我出世,系未?於是我同習總就撞正同一個禮拜去美國啦。今個禮拜係乜事呢,話說Oxford Union呢, 即系牛津大學的Union係三個月前已經同我確認左要係十月十九號定系二十號過來visit啦,咁所以。。。咁其實習總訪英的消息都是一個月前先公佈,咁其實我系早過習總決定去Oxford。但系如果你要話特意安排,其實真系唔關我事。系機緣巧合咯,我又唔會刻意回避,話習總去得我就唔去得。不過兩次都撞中又真系夸左小小嘅。

HKFP: Some media reports said you are being “used” by foreign anti-China forces to “follow and attack” Xi with protests, how would you respond to that?

Wong: 

How can I “follow and attack” Xi? I didn’t even think of getting close to him. Actually, this time, the purpose of my British visit is to give speeches at six universities. In four days I have to go to six universities and do interviews with a dozen media outlets… For me I definitely haven’t been used, and I don’t intend to “follow and attack” Xi, he is not someone who I can just follow if I want to.
點樣追擊習總?都無諗過埋佢身。今次其實我去英國個purpose系去六間大學演講咋嘛,咁四日內我去六間大學,十幾個傳媒訪問,我覺得無必要去。。。我覺得對我來講我絕對無被人利用啦,同埋我無諗著追擊習總啦,因為習總都唔系我想追就追得到㗎嘛。

HKFP: How did your speech go at Oxford University and other places? Did you see any protests against you?

Wong: 

At Oxford, the debate hall was full, nearly 500 people. Now I am on my way to visit the third university. I haven’t seen any protests against me yet. The response of the audience was very positive, because Hong Kong is an issue in Britain. A past colony – of course many people are interested to hear about it.

What’s more, China is a economic and trade partner of Britain. China’s human rights situation, especially Hong Kong’s situation – as Hong Kong is already the place with the most human rights in China – how Hong Kong develops will receive a lot of attention.

係牛津坐爆幾乎五百人,坐爆果個debate hall。依家去緊第三間。無遇到示威。佢地的反應好正面,因為香港對於英國來講都系一個issue,因為系殖民地,梗系多人聽啦。而且中國依家系英國係經貿上嘅合作夥伴,中國嘅人權狀況,尤其香港作為已經系中國最有人權嘅地方,點樣發展,大家都會好關注。

See also: HKFP Interview with Scholarism’s Agnes Chow

HKFP: In a recent interview with AFP, you said that the UK government has been blinded by Xi’s trade deals and has ignored human rights issues. In your opinion, which human rights issue should British Prime Minister David Cameron bring up with Xi?

Wong: 

I think Cameron has a responsibility. Actually, Britain signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, but China has long violated its promises in the Declaration by suppressing Hong Kong’s human rights, democracy and freedom.

The British government, as a signatory of the Declaration, no doubt has the responsibility to follow up on how the Declaration is being implemented in Hong Kong, and to ask Xi Jinping why he still won’t give Hong Kong a democratic system.

我覺得卡梅倫有一個責任。其實英國系簽左一個聯合聲明,但係依家中國政府其實一早已經違背左中英聯合聲明裏邊得承諾,不斷去打壓香港得人權,民主同自由。咁英國政府作為有份簽中英聯合聲明嘅政府,咁佢當然有責任去跟進翻依家中英聯合聲明係香港落實情況,同埋詢問翻點解習近平仲唔比香港有一個民主嘅制度呢?

HKFP: How useful would such a conversation be in helping to change the situation in Hong Kong?

Wong: 

I should say, we cannot expect the sky will change in Hong Kong as soon as Cameron says something, or that China will change as soon as Xi responds to Cameron. This is impossible. But, at least, Britain needs to fulfill its responsibilities as a signatory of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Also, Britain is a country that loves democracy and freedom, if it doesn’t talk about [democracy and freedom], what does it want to do?

應該話,我地唔能夠期望卡梅倫講完一句,香港就會變天。習總一回應,中國就會改變。呢樣嘢系無可能,但係至少英國作為一個簽署左聯合聲明嘅國家,佢系要履行呢個責任咯。同埋英國系一個嚮往民主自由嘅國家,咁如果佢都無講嘅時候,佢諗著點呢?
joshua wong

Joshua Wong. Photo: StandNews remix.

HKFP: Can you describe the protests in London? Were they supported by a lot of people, or did people generally welcome Xi?

Wong: 

I saw many pro-China people here waving their little flags, they outnumbered the protesters. I think this situation is very ironic because inside China, many people are unhappy with the government. Many fighters of human rights, democracy and freedom have been arrested, and now even human rights lawyers have been arrested. I think today what I saw in London is the opposite of the situation in the mainland.
見到當地好多親中人士拿著支旗係度揈,親中人士比示威的人多咯。咁其實呢個情況系非常之諷刺,因為其實係中國,正正有更多系對中國抱有不忿的人,或者系爭取人權民主自由嘅,全部被習近平捉晒,依家連人權律師都被人拉埋一份的時候,所以我覺得今日的情況系正正系內地情況的相反。

See also: HKFP Interview with HKFSU President Nathan Law.

HKFP: You filed a judicial review earlier to challenge the minimum age a person can run for the Hong Kong legislature. You said you wanted to lower it from 21 to 18 and wanted to run. If you are elected, how would you fight for democracy inside the legislature?

Wong: 

I think at least what needs to change is the state of our fight [for democracy] inside the legislature, which now has become expendable. But the situation is that my chances of winning the judicial review are not high because the government will appeal [if I win]. Right now, I haven’t even got the court’s permission to proceed with the case, it’s too early to talk about anything.
我覺得至少係議會抗爭上唔能夠處於係依家呢個可有可無的狀態上咯,但係具體的情況,其實司法覆核的勝算都唔高,因為政府可能都會上訴。依家連法庭嘅permission都未拿到,所以就十畫都未有一撇嘅。

HKFP: When we spoke to your colleague Agnes Chow, she said Scholarism and other groups were exploring the possibilities of building a civil referendum system for people to vote on issues they care about. Any referendum system organised by the pan-democrat side is likely to be boycotted by pro-government supporters, so how would the referendum results truly reflect the opinion of society? 

Wong: 

I think referendums are a show of attitude for all people, just like last year’s June 22 referendum. Certainly, it had a political mobilisation effect. Its influence is bigger than its purpose in reality. Also, if the result of referendums can be linked to some lawmakers’ votes inside the legislature, it could encourage more people to take part in the referendums. But now is not the right time to build the referendum system yet, because it’s still being debated.
我覺得公投系全民表態,正如六二二公投,當然系有一個政治動員嘅作用,影響力比實質作用大。同埋如果投票可以同議員嘅表決取態掛鉤,對投票人數都有鼓勵作用。不過搞公投制度依家都未系一個好適合嘅時候,因為其實依家都系係一個醞釀討論嘅階段。

Wong is featured in the Lessons in Dissent documentary, available on DVD.

HKFP Interview: Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong on Xi’s UK visit, human rights and democracy