Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Note: this article was originally published as part of our "Youths of the Decade" roundup. Click here to read the article in full.
Joshua Wong, along with Malala and figures like Greta Thunberg, is one of the most prominent young political activists this decade. When he was just 15, he co-founded a student activist group, called Scholarism, in 2011, which would go on to be at the forefront of Hong Kong’s 79-day-long Umbrella Movement. At just 16 he was already organising rallies involving upwards of 100,000 people.
At the start of the Umbrella Movement, after Beijing announced they would not give Hong Kong universal suffrage after all, Wong was one of the first to start a class boycott which would serve as the catalyst for the wider movement. He proved incredibly courageous and resilient during the year, going on hunger strike, being assaulted by pro-Beijing thugs and police, and held in custody for 46 hours. Beijing even recognised how important he was as a political figure in Hong Kong, directly identifying him in a Blue Paper on National Security as a threat to the CCP regime.
In 2016, he founded the pro-independence political party Demosistō along with other Scholarism leaders Agnes Chow, Oscar Lai and other prominent Umbrella Movement activists. In 2015, he was recognised by Fortune magazine as one of the “world’s greatest leaders”.
The next year, he was jailed for his role in the Umbrella Movement along with other student activists Nathan Law and Alex Chow, but he didn’t stay silent; he managed to pen columns for progressive news outlet The Guardian whilst in jail.
More recently, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 by a bipartisan group of US lawmakers, alongside the entire Umbrella Movement and other singled-out activists, Nathan Law and Alex Chow. He further influenced US politics, playing an instrumental role in convincing them to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act earlier in the year, which requires the US President to sanction complicit Hong Kong and Beijing officials.
He has become one of the most prominent figures in 2019’s pro-democracy movement, which shows no signs of stopping soon, and at 23, he has already accomplished so much.