I have been thinking a lot about Joshua Wong this past week. Actually, I’ve been concerned about his well being.
Wong is the 23-year-old Hong Kong political activist who has been raising hell with the Beijing government for the past six years to maintain Hong Kong’s independence and freedom.
His rise to prominence came in 2016 when he led the Umbrella Movement. The Chinese government didn’t approve and tossed him in jail. He’s since been in and out of jail a few times.
He, along with Agnes Chow and Nathan Law, established the Demosisto political party in 2016. Demosisto means “Stand for Democracy”.
Joshua has been a model for what choosing to lead looks like. He’s also a model for understanding how leading can be dangerous and how you can get hurt or worse.
The danger for Joshua and his movement is that the change they seek: guarantees of freedom, have generated resistance and push back from Beijing. This back and forth has been going on for over a year.
On Tuesday, the Beijing government had enough. They were pissed. They passed The National Security Law. This is a law that gives Beijing sweeping powers to shape life in Hong Kong. Said another way, Hong Kong loses freedoms.
Last Tuesday, Joshua Wong stepped down from Demosisto and disbanded the party. I suspect Wong realized the heat was too high and he and his partners had entered a different level of danger.
He’s a wise young man. He’s not quitting, but what he is doing is trying to lower the heat and then seek a different path forward. This is the work of leading inside a socially complex, wicked problem.
Here in the United States, it’s been the July 4th weekend. Independence Day. It is easy to complain that Covid-19 has stolen our parades, fireworks, and community BBQs. So if we take that route, we need to remember that complaining is one of our freedoms.
My friend and colleague Mike Staresinic reminded me yesterday, “When we talk about our freedom; we must talk about Hong Kong’s freedom as well. We must do our part to keep their freedoms alive.” Use your voice to keep freedom alive in Hong Kong.
Keep your eye on Joshua Wong. He’s conducting a highwire masterclass in leading without a net and not enough freedom. He needs our support.