A prominent pro-democracy activist has been released from prison. Joshua Wong’s release comes a day after a record-breaking protest in the former British colony.
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was released from prison on Monday, a day after up to 2 million people protested against Hong Kong’s embattled leader and her controversial extradition bill.
The 22-year-old activist had been sentenced to two months in jail over his role in the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests against a Beijing initiative to screen candidates for the city’s top executive.
Wong slammed Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam immediately after leaving prison.
“She is no longer qualified to be Hong Kong’s leader,” Wong told reporters. “She must take the blame and resign, be held accountable and step down.”
“I will join to fight against this evil law,” said Wong of the extradition bill. “I believe this is the time for her, Carrie Lam the liar, to step down.”
Before he went to join the protesters who had camped out overnight Sunday, Wong went to lay flowers at a memorial near a shopping mall where a protester fell to his death Saturday night after hanging a banner on scaffolding.
Millions against extradition bill
Organizers say some two million people crowded Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday to show their opposition to a bill that would allow residents to be extradited to mainland China. Police gave a lower estimate of 338,000.
The extradition bill prompted outrage and triggered a series of massive rallies. In the face of public pressure, Lam agreed to suspend the bill on Saturday.
Freezing the procedure failed to appease the protesters, who demanded she permanently shelve the controversial initiative. They also called for her resignation and an apology for alleged police violence.
More demonstrations expected
Some protesters continued to occupy part of a major road near Hong Kong’s seat of government into Monday before they moved away from the streets and gathered at the government’s headquarters.
Police were seen pleading with the protesters to disperse and telling them they were allowed to stay on the sidewalk. Unlike previous rallies, security forces refrained from using force to clear the protesters. The police were also wearing their regular uniforms instead of riot gear.
Social workers and middle school students planned strikes on Monday, but it was unclear how many people would stay at home.
Chinese state media largely ignored the Hong Kong rally on Sunday, and content related to it was removed from social media.
Beijing pledged to protect Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms for 50 years when it took over the former British colony in 1997. However, Hong Kong residents fear that China’s central government is already trying to hollow out the city’s special status.
dj/amp (AP, dpa, AFP)