Hong Kong

Pro-Democracy Activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow Arrested in Hong Kong

"Hong Kong is a place without basic political and economic freedom," Wong tells Reason.


Two prominent Hong Kong activists, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, were arrested Friday for participating in unauthorized assembly and inciting other protesters to do the same. Both have been released on bail. Hong Kong police have also denied organizers permission to hold a march planned for Saturday.

The two 22-year-olds are leaders of Demosisto, an organization that backs greater autonomy and self-government for Hong Kong. (Wong serves as secretary-general while Chow is on the standing committee.) Wong first entered protest politics during Hong Kong's "umbrella movement" of 2014. Those roughly three months of demonstrations called for giving the semi-autonomous Chinese city's residents the right to elect their chief executive directly, without the Communist Party pre-screening the candidates. Currently, citizens "elect" the chief executive, but have no options aside from candidates who have earned Beijing's stamp of approval.

The current round of protests was set off by a bill, introduced in early June and suspended shortly thereafter, that would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite accused criminals to both Taiwan and mainland China. While the marchers are glad the legislation was suspended, they want it fully pulled—and they have broader demands too.

"The chief executive of Hong Kong should be elected by Hong Kong's people instead of picked by Beijing," Wong tells Reason. "We urge the government to terminate the bill, stop police brutality, and respond to our calls for free elections."

Though Hong Kong is technically a part of China, it operates under a "one country, two systems" policy that allows Hongkongers to enjoy basic democratic norms and due process. In 2047, though, Hong Kong's quasi-independent government will be dissolved and it will become fully absorbed into mainland China. The protesters fear China is speeding up this timeline.

"'One country, two systems' has already eroded," says Wong. "It's one country, one and a half systems." He adds that "Mainland Chinese people also deserve democracy."

Tensions between the protesters and the authorities have escalated in recent weeks. In mid-August, police beat up community organizers and shot a woman in the eye with a non-lethal bean bag round. Days later, airport protesters attacked some men they believed to be undercover Chinese infiltrators. (Their suspicions turned out to be right—one was a cop from Shenzhen, the other a reporter for state-owned media.) About a week after that, Chinese authorities disappeared a staffer at the British consulate in Hong Kong. The Washington Post reports that police have arrested more than 800 people in connection with the protests over the past few months.

"I was really shocked by the threat of police to us people on the fifth of August, the day we had the general strike," Wong says. "I joined the assembly outside of the government headquarters, and a sniper from the riot police fired tear gas from 40 floors" up. Wong says police have fired more than 2,000 tear gas shells over the course of the protests.

Now the cops are cracking down on protesters' ability to assemble in public places. The Associated Press reports:

The organizers of Saturday's march, the fifth anniversary of a decision by China against allowing fully democratic elections for the leader of Hong Kong, said they were calling it off after an appeals board denied permission. It was unclear whether some protesters would still demonstrate on their own.

The police commander of Hong Kong island, Kwok Pak Chung, appealed to people to stay away from any non-authorized rallies, warning that those caught could face a five-year jail term.

"In the past five years," Wong says, "activists were jailed, lawmakers were kicked out of office, foreign correspondents were expelled from Hong Kong, and book publishers were kidnapped to China. It's not only saying that Hong Kong is a place far away from democracy—it's also saying that Hong Kong is a place without basic political and economic freedom."

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  1. “It’s not only saying that Hong Kong is a place far away from democracy—it’s also saying that Hong Kong is a place without basic political and economic freedom.”

    Even if that’s true, I bet Drumpf’s America is worse. Since Russia installed him as President, Drumpf has waged a draconian war on immigration — even building concentration camps in which people are literally forced to drink from toilets. Moreover, Drumpf is also a theocratic extremist (don’t let the much younger former model wife fool you!) who is turning this country into The Handmaid’s Tale.

    1. I’ve enjoyed your parody for some time now, but you really really need a new schtick, a more creative outlet for your talent. It is clearly being wasted on endless references to Handmaid’s Tale.

      And when Amy Barrett is nominated to take Ginsberg’s place on the SC in a few weeks, do you suppose the protesters are going to show up in those outfits again?

      1. RBG will retire after 2021 when a Democrat is back in the White House.

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        2. The Don will attend her funeral.

          1. We can hope your case of TDS is fatal.

      2. The media was covering for RBG’s 3 weeks of chemo/radiation treatment for a NEW cancer.

        There is no way that they can keep RBG from rotting for the entirety of Trump’s next 5.5 years in office.

        1. “Trump’s next 5.5 years in office”


          1. The Don is as good as in,only Michelle Obama has a chance against him if they can keep her hidden until the last minute.

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    2. open borders? I see you have the iq of a houseplant. Name one country with open borders that is NOT a crap hole. Even Canada controls their immigration and only wants those with job skills or an education.

      Your opinion is about as low information, and ignorant, as is humanly possible. I shudder to think just what kind of sh&t job you work, probably retail or service.

      1. He’s a parody account

    3. “Even if that’s true, I bet Drumpf’s America is worse.”

      You do? Really? You BELIVE this drivel? You realize that if Trump were worse than the geriatric authoritarian bastards that misgovern China, the government response to Antifa would involve automatic weapons fire, don’t you?

      ‘Trump is worse that A, he’s worse than B, he’s literally Hitler!’

      Do you actually expect to convince anybody?

      Want Trump out of office? Make sure the Democrat Party nominates somebody who isn’t dumb as a post, arguably criminal, or batshit crazy. Because compared to Granny Maojackets von Pantsuit, or any of the current batch of clowns, Trump looks like Calvin Coolidge; maybe not the best choice, but good enough to be going on with.

      1. Watch out for Miz Michelle as the Pinko Chinko’s call her.

    4. “Even if that’s true, ”

      According to Heritage foundation Hong Kongers have more economic freedom than anyone else in the world.

      ” I bet Drumpf’s America is worse”

      Only if you haven’t developed a taste for toilet water.

  2. “Pro-democracy” just doesn’t push my buttons like it used to. Hong Kong was never a democracy, and while autonomy may be a legitimate demand, democracy strikes me as significantly less so. It’s not even clear that most of the population would vote for it if there were a referendum.

    1. It’s a question of context.

      If they want “democracy” so they can have a majority vote to take people’s stuff, that would leave me cold.

      But here the thieves and crooks are the nondemocratic leaders, and the democratic leaders are the ones who have experience living in a basically free city – they have every incentive to vote to keep those freedoms, while the unelected crooks have every incentive to screw them over in every way once the barrier of democracy is removed.

    2. “autonomy may be a legitimate demand, democracy strikes me as significantly less so”

      Democracy means rule by the demos, the poor. It’s Greek in origin.

      1. Demo- doesn’t mean poor.

        Poor would be pto- and the opposite would be timo-
        Aristo- = nobles (which by the time these words apply to govt also meant hereditary)
        Oligo- = few

        The original word used for the form of govt that Cleisthenes introduced for Athens was iso- equality – isonomia (equality of law); isocratia (equality of power); isopsephos (equal ‘vote’ – for those few things that used voting as the means of choice).

        The prefix demo- was attached to that by those who opposed it (notably both Plato and Aristotle) – in the same way that Marxists used ‘capitalism’ to describe the economic system they oppose and aristocrats used ‘capitalist’ to describe the ‘vulgarity’ of the nouveau riche. They wanted rule of the few (by however they chose to define who gets selected as the few). Since, by definition, the few are a minority any attempt by the non-few to exercise anything other than submission is considered ‘bad’.

        Poly- (the actual opposite of oligo-) had positive connotations then so instead they chose demo- (meaning roughly districts/citizens/people) because it had the connotation of ‘rule by the bad part of town’.

        1. “Demo- doesn’t mean poor.”

          True, but democracy is rule by the poor because the poor outnumber the non poor. The Greeks recognized this as did the US founding fathers, who did all they could to check their power and influence, limiting the vote to property owning men.

          1. The Greeks recognized this

            The Greeks who we read today ‘recognized’ this. FTFY. We don’t read ancient Greece (esp Pericles who instituted many of those ‘favoring the poor’ measures so opposed later) as mere history where context matters. Or pre-Socratic philosophers who at least were contemporaneous with those events. Hell, we don’t even read Plato/Aristotle who constructed strawmen about democracy/isokratia in order to sell ‘rule of the idle virtuous’. We read third-hand moderns with their own agenda who interpret Plato/Aristotle in translation for us.

            as did the US founding fathers

            Greece was near irrelevant for both the US/French during Enlightenment. The Roman Republic and its decline was the ancient model for them. And more importantly actually the various governance models used by church denominations (congregational, presbyter, episcopal, etc) which was their only actual experience of self-governance during the colonial era.

            The key point of democracy or isocratia was that all people who are governed have an equal voice in determining the terms/conditions of that governance.
            Majoritarianism is not = to democracy.

  3. Prepare for the long stays in the gulags boys and girls.

    1. Need a little Tiananmen, in my life…a little gulag, for my strife…

    2. These young gallant Chinese are in my prayers & in the PLA’s crosshairs.

  4. Thomas Friedman must be relieved.

  5. True heroes like these don’t wear mask. let that be a lesson to Antifa

    1. The Founding Fathers didn’t wear masks and they all knew that if they were caught by the British, they would hanged as traitors to the Crown.

      1. “The Founding Fathers didn’t wear masks ”

        They wore wigs and false wooden teeth, When dumping tea in harbors, they dressed as Indians. They also belonged to secret societies and rode the streets conveying coded messages.

        1. Actually it is a myth that Washington’s teeth were wooden. He did have an early version of dentures, which often contained cadaver teeth (this was the norm). As for the wigs, it was the fashion in both the US and England but it wasn’t universal. Many, like Jefferson, Henry and Franklin and Sam Adams didn’t commonly wear whigs. As for the secret societies and coded messages, that was basically standard operational security. But every single person who signed the declaration of Independence used their real name and all had warrants on their heads and would have been tried for treason if the colonist had lost. The Boston Tea Party also happened before the revolution, and was during a period before the colonist considered independence. Even then the disguised were rudimentary and were really worn to give a little plausible deniability to the colonial authorities. Everyone knew who were the ringleaders. They didn’t even attempt to hide it very much.

          1. And the secret societies, the code words, the disguised (at the tea party) only became necessary as England became less tolerant of the Colonial protests. The embargoes that proceeded them were done in the open, but the King and Parliament declared that the colonies were in near revolt and began cracking down on the protests. The Son’s of Liberty used to meet openly and publicised their meeting times at first.

            1. “And the secret societies, the code words”

              The Freemasons, to which Paul Revere and many other key figures belonged, were active before the revolution started to heat up, They were always anti-monarchical and conducted their business in secret. True heroes do indeed wear masks, conceal their identities and don’t tell their enemies their plans.

  6. Liberals and pro Antifa are happy to see free speech lovers thrown in prison. China is their true love, a true socialist paradise.

  7. Quite a few more are being arrested – including pro-democracy legislators

    Lots of courage there

    1. These people are my heroes like the Solidarity citizens.

  8. Pretty sure it was Conquest who wrote that the USSR collapsed when the those in the Red Army decided they would not shoot their friends and neighbors.
    Anyone old enough should easily remember ‘the tank man’ of Tienanmen Square; the members of the PLA had no such qualms in 1989.
    We can hope that times have changed; so far, so good.

    1. Thats not how the USSR collapsed. The army was never given orders to shoot people so they never decided anything. The collapse was a lot more slow-motion than that.

      1. “Thats not how the USSR collapsed. ”

        It’s closer to how the Shah of Iran collapsed. The break up of the USSR saw the military kidnapping Gorbachev, shelling the parliament building, leveling the Chechen capital Grozny, and killing dozens of protesters especially in surrounding republics like Lithuania, Georgia, etc. It’s true that these events weren’t decisive and the military was just as confused and divided as the populace.

        Sevo’s mistake is to assume that the actions of the Red Army 30 years ago have any bearing on what the PLA does today.

  9. This is heartbreaking – it’s always more depressing to see people lose liberties they already have, than to see people who never had any.

    What brave young people – if this were a movie they’d win.

    The silver lining is that if the SHTF, the U. S. can finally find a group of refugees it can unambiguously welcome as future citizens – and I bet they won’t vote for “this time we’ll get it right” socialism, either.

    1. The silver lining is that if the SHTF, the U. S. can finally find a group of refugees it can unambiguously welcome as future citizens

      Hong Kong is 414 square miles, surrounded by China-controlled ocean. The only refugees will be those who leave before the day China decides enough is enough and rolls its armor across the border.

    2. Reason thinks China is acting badly…and that we should not use ANY tools in our arsenal, such as trade policy, to deal with it.

      Can we admit that opening trade with China has not liberated its people or improved their freedoms whatsoever? Why not use OTHER Asian countries to supply our needs?

      1. “Why not use OTHER Asian countries to supply our needs?”

        Why use Asian countries to supply our needs?

        1. “Why use Asian countries to supply our needs?”

          It is no surprise that the concept of ‘competitive advantage’ is lost on someone so abysmally stupid.

          1. The word is ‘comparative advantage’ not ‘competitive advantage’ – stupid. Competitive advantage is business school blather that in fact equates to the economic term ‘absolute advantage’ NOT ‘comparative advantage’.

            1. “The word is ‘comparative advantage’ not ‘competitive advantage’ – stupid.”

              Oh, oh! Fucking lefty ignoramus is now a grammar nazi!
              Fuck off.

              1. It’s not about grammar. It’s about economic concepts. Trade today (for the US as reserve currency) has virtually nothing to do with comparative advantage or ‘free trade’ or anything that Ricardo wrote about. You don’t have structural long-term deficits with comparative advantage.

      2. “Can we admit that opening trade with China has not liberated its people or improved their freedoms whatsoever?”

        No, because only an idiot who has not watched China since the ’70s would make such a fucking stupid claim.

  10. Britain handed Hong Kong over at midnight on 1 July 1997. China has handled it with kid gloves for more than two decades, about twice what I would have predicted. Those folks have been on borrowed time ever since the Brit flag came down. I’m guessing it’s about to run out.

  11. ..and Reason cheers because he was disrupting the slave produced goods trade from China..how dare this guy impinge on our right to buy cheap goods

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  13. Well any way the protesters have set one of the government buildings on fire and it burn for thirty minutes. By the way for weeks now Beijing has refuse to allow Carry Lam to back down from the protesters. To be honest it looks like Beijing is doing all it can to provoke them. any way if you are really interested in what happening in Hong Kong here a Singapore web site that’s been updating every few hours on the protest.

  14. All the best to Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow. Meanwhile what happened to news of street protests in Tegucigalpa? Not all Hondurans are pleased about USAF, Navy and DEA having major bases in Honduras with a government that continues to serve our Pentagon while our drug wars and their severe drought gets worse.

    1. “Meanwhile what happened to news of street protests in Tegucigalpa?”

      Reason has evidently decided that the Honduran situation is not worth covering. I found this strange because Libertarians are typically concerned over drug wars, foreign meddling and immigration, none of which figure in the Hong Kong protests.

  15. “Hong Kong is a place without basic political and economic freedom,”

    Sounds like they’re talking about contemporary American college campuses.

    1. The Heritage foundation has listed Hong Kong as the freest economy on the planet for at least two years running. The USA doesn’t even make the top ten.

      1. An exceptionally competitive financial and business hub, Hong Kong remains one of the world’s most resilient economies. A high-quality legal framework provides effective protection of property rights and strongly supports the rule of law. There is little tolerance for corruption, and a high degree of transparency enhances government integrity. Regulatory efficiency and openness to global commerce undergird a vibrant entrepreneurial climate.

      2. “The Heritage foundation has listed Hong Kong as the freest economy on the planet for at least two years running. The USA doesn’t even make the top ten.”

        Sevo has rated trueman as one of the most dishonest or the most fucking stupid commenters here for the last several years.
        “Hong Kong’s economic freedom score is 90.2, sustaining its status as the world’s freest economy in the 2019 Index.”

        Which says nothing regarding freedom of speech, assembly or other personal freedoms.
        How long ago did your brain cells leak out?

        1. Well maybe you prefer the Cato human freedom index – which does measure economic freedom separate from personal freedom

          Hong Kong – econ freedom #1; pers freedom #32 – overall #3
          Singapore – econ freedom #2; pers freedom #62 – overall #25
          Taiwan – econ freedom #12; pers freedom #15 – overall #10
          US – econ freedom #6; pers freedom #28 – overall #17
          Netherlands – econ freedom #18, pers freedom #1 – overall #6
          New Zealand – econ freedom #3, pers freedom #6 – overall #1
          Denmark – econ freedom #16, pers freedom #4 – overall #6
          Switzerland – econ freedom #4, pers freedom #10 – overall #2

          Fact is – that the protests in HK would probably have been crushed in the US a long time ago (Seattle 1999, Occupy). Since Trump was elected, 18 R legislatures have created anti-protest laws banning some forms of non-violent protest – to go along with the ‘free speech cages’ we’ve had for a long time now – and a ton of commenters here thought it was perfectly OK and libertarian a couple weeks ago to run over protestors with a truck cuz ‘obstructing a sidewalk is an act of violence’. They (that means you) would fit in well as a commie China apologist.

          1. “Fact is – that the protests in HK would probably have been crushed in the US a long time ago (Seattle 1999, Occupy).”

            You know is a fucking lefty ignoramus when we get hypotheticals instead of facts.
            Yes, of course JFree, why Trump would have sent in the tanks and had them open fire!
            And you wonder why no one takes you seriously?

            1. Trump doesn’t need to send in the troops now that he has, via executive order, restored giving military equipment to state/local police departments.

              The whole fucking point of proposing/enacting state laws – detailed here – that find/invent ways to turn constitutional protest into criminalized activity is to ramp things up to that level. To legally ‘test’ how the 1A can be infringed going forward. If one thing gets defeated now – that’s ok cuz it then can become a political issue.

              Trump’s only direct impact is that his authoritarian/Nixonian streak and his revival of ‘other as enemy’, enables R’s to politicize/delegitimize protest so they can once again make ‘law and order’ a political issue that transcends mere criminality. With 2+ million people in prison – and an incarceration rate far higher than every country including Cuba or China – the US has run out of low-hanging fruit that can be fearmongered. But clamping down on ‘other’ gets tons of fear-mongering votes.

        2. “Which says nothing regarding freedom of speech, assembly or other personal freedoms.”

          How do you have economic freedom if you don’t have personal freedom? The freedom to change your job, for example. Is that a personal freedom or an economic freedom? Tell us what you think, Sevo.

  16. I wish freedom lovers from other countries would join these young people.Then these heroes could destroy China’s communist stranglehold on a billion people.

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