A worker cuts pieces of plywood to cover the damage caused to a branch of the Bank of China after the protest in the Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on Monday. [Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP]
Analysts caution against Wong's attempts to hype to garner international attention
Activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung, 22, has been grabbing the limelight, be it during his arrest and release in Hong Kong, or during his visits to Washington or Berlin.
The secretary-general of the localist party Demosisto has more than 347,000 followers on Twitter, where he tweets posters advocating protests or retweets texts or page links shared by prominent political figures he has met lately, including Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
Reuters calls him "a prominent face of the protests", Agence France-Presse calls him a "pro-democracy poster child", while many Chinese netizens and social media have dubbed him "a traitor" as he met with political figures abroad and urged them to pressure China.
Zhang Dinghuai, a professor of Hong Kong and Macao studies at Shenzhen University, said Wong "has worked hard to bolster his high profile image in recent years".
Activists like Wong are good at leading struggles in the street, manipulating public opinion, gathering political support from within and outside Hong Kong and making false accusations against the central government and Special Administrative Region authorities through the media, Zhang observed.
"This is exactly the basic pattern and way of life enshrined by such people as 'revolution'," Zhang said.
Wong had drawn flak for lobbying for foreign support for protests in Hong Kong, while the radical protesters - almost every weekend in the past four months - hurled gasoline bombs at police, paralyzed airports and subways or attacked residents who disagreed with them.
Wong, who together with Ivan Lam, another student, established student activist group Scholarism in 2011, was convicted in 2016 for incitement over the storming of the SAR government headquarters in September 2014.
He was arrested in Aug. 30 for participating in, organizing and inciting others to participate in an unauthorized assembly. He joined an illegal assembly on Aug 31 after his release on parole.
He was arrested again on Sept. 8 and released later, after which he traveled to Germany and met with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, drawing protests from Beijing.
"China is strongly dissatisfied by and firmly opposed to Germany's allowing the Hong Kong separatist to enter the country to engage in anti-China and separatist activities," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
During his stay in Berlin, he called Hong Kong "the new Berlin in the new Cold War", inviting criticism from political analysts for his ignorance of Germany's history.
Zhang Yuqiang, a professor of international communication studies at Communication University of China, said Wong knows clearly it is easier for him to attract global attention, trigger greater discussion and even seek international engagement if he puts issues in Hong Kong within the context of what he proposes, such as a "new Cold War".
"This is part of an information strategy for delivering message," Zhang said, adding that people with basic knowledge know that the grounds for a cold war, including military confrontation between two blocs, are nonexistent.
"So Wong's attempt to hype a 'new Cold War' bears ulterior motives and shows his lack of political common sense," Zhang said.
When addressing a U.S. congressional committee and speaking to media recently, "human rights" and "democracy" were among Wong's catchphrases.
While in Hong Kong, he joined radical protesters and encouraged them to take a tougher stand against the SAR government, media reports and visual footage showed.
In a co-signed article published in UK's Metro newspaper earlier last month, Wong urged the British lawmakers to consider proposing a Hong Kong human rights and democracy act, following a proposed U.S.-Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act introduced by U.S. lawmakers, and which is being discussed in the US Congress.
Wang Zhenmin, director of Center for Hong Kong and Macao Research of Tsinghua University, warned that it is clear that it is not the SAR government that does not allow the local residents to enjoy freedom, while the radical protesters have given no chance to, and have even attacked, people expressing different views in the streets.
Jia Xiudong, a researcher of international relations studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said activists like Wong tend to justify their stand in the name of freedom or democracy, while their actions and comments have relied heavily on the support from political figures and groups in the West.
"Much of what he has said breached the laws of the country and of the Hong Kong SAR. Given the impact brought by his inflammatory remarks and actions, the interests of Hong Kong have also been compromised," Jia said.
"It is also deplorable, as seen by many Chinese citizens, to fulfill political ambitions by ganging up with external forces. They could have voiced ideas (for making Hong Kong better) right in the city. Instead, they are begging foreigners to pressure the SAR government to get what they want. This only leads to disrespect from both their compatriots and the foreigners," Jia said.
As for those political figures supporting Wong, Jia said what they have done "is a typical way of fanning 'color revolution', which many countries have been clearly aware of".
Wong's rise in recent years is accompanied by growing pains for Hong Kong and its younger generation, including employment and soaring property prices, said Zhang, the Communication University of China professor.
Wong's generation has grown up in the era of booming global media and in a community with great diversity of thoughts and freedom of speech, Zhang said.
"It is easier for them to receive training, advice and skills from agencies supporting color revolution to bolster their competency in dealing with media, and young activists like Wong are experts in using social media networks," Zhang said.
Wong's Twitter account has been updated on a regular basis. It sometimes puts out around a dozen tweets a day, including posters, web page links and retweets of other colleagues and political figures they meet.
"We would like to ask if there is a team running his account or he runs it on his own. All the tweets and the timing of such tweets seem to be well planned," Zhang said.