Joshua Wong is a 17-year-old activist for democracy in Hong Kong, China and founder of the activist group Scholarism. The group was established in 2011, consisting of Wong’s friends and family. It has since grown to include 120,000 protestors and 13 hunger strikers.
Scholarism’s desire for universal suffrage stems from China having a fixed government that has been run by the Chinese Communist party since 1949. The members of this party are appointed every five years by the current members and run the government for the five years they are required to serve. In other words, members do not get nominated or elected by the people of China.
In 1997, Hong Kong was promised the democratic election of its own leader, but, as of right now, that does not exist. There is discussion of Hong Kong allowing five of the seven million considered citizens be able to cast their votes in 2017, according to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
More recently, officials said that Hong Kong will be able to vote for their leader, but the candidates must be approved by Beijing. This angered Wong and led him to build up his activist group to fight for complete universal suffrage.
At first, Scholarism’s main focus was the newest education program established in the country: Moral and National Education. Scholarism protested outside Hong Kong’s government headquarters, spurring officials to withdraw the new curriculum.
The group quickly gained attention and has since stayed active in fighting for democracy and striving for universal suffrage. According to CNN, in July, Scholarism “staged a mass sit-in which drew a warning from China’s vice president not to disrupt the ‘stability’ of the city.”
The group is mobilizing students to walk out of classes, which represents the reversal of the system in place.
These educational protests helps give students a voice, and will hopefully turn into universal suffrage, fulfilling Wong’s goal.
Scholarism shows students that if they fight for something, they can have a huge impact and really make a difference. Though young, Wong is a great icon for the movement, showing that the students care about what they learn and how they learn. Students taking a stand also shows that they really do want to have a say in what goes on, how they are treated and what rights they have.
Scholarism’s efforts will be helpful and powerful if they continue to fight and persevere. They could be the ones who change Hong Kong one day and gain a more democratic government, all because they stood up for what they believe in.
I completely support Wong’s efforts and ideas for sit-ins and protests, and the group as a whole. Very few 17-year-olds would take charge and attempt to alter the government. His efforts are brave and I hope he succeeds.