POLITICS
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Joshua Wong

Hong Kong student Joshua Wong still willing to lead Scholarism despite pressure to finish education

Teenager will stay on as Scholarism head even though it means endless work and sacrifices

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 May, 2015, 6:49am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:10pm

Hong Kong's highest-profile teenager might be a university student now, but Joshua Wong Chi-fung will serve a new term as head of the group he founded to fight national education in schools.

Wong, a key player in last year's Occupy pro-democracy movement, was reappointed as convenor of Scholarism, a position he has served in since its foundation in 2011.

Prince Wong Ji-yuet, 18, will replace Oscar Lai Man-lok as the group's spokesman.

Joshua Wong, who had kept a relatively low profile since being feted by international media for his role in the 79-day Occupy sit-ins, took to Facebook to explain why he was staying in his post.

"After thinking and struggling repeatedly, I put my name down on the application form," wrote Wong, 18, who is studying politics at Open University.

Wong also discussed the difficulties the group had faced and addressed uncertainty about its future. When he started the group to fight plans for patriotic education in schools, it was tackling one basic issue and did not have high expectations from the public. Early members were not familiar with the concept of civil disobedience.

But after Occupy, members started to deal with topics such as political reform, the Basic Law, controversy over the definition of "one country, two systems" and even calls for Hong Kong independence.

"There is an even bigger problem," he wrote. "All those who have served Scholarism's convenor and spokespeople need to be prepared psychologically for not being able to return to the mainland and the risk of being arrested.

"It was difficult for us to expect this several years ago and it will bring quite a few limitations to senior secondary school pupils who are still not sure about their future and career development."

The group now has about 200 members, from Form Two secondary school pupils to students in the fourth year of university.

Wong said attending to group affairs had also taken up a lot of time for study, which had led to disputes between members and their families. Meanwhile, they also had to face online bullying, Wong added.

"In the fourth year in the organisation, when I was elected, there was no longer the feeling of excitement or fulfilment, but endless pressure," he said.

"School and personal life are basically no longer part of my life after the anti-national-education movement. Even after I entered university, I still cannot recognise who my classmates are.

"I have devoted almost all my time to Scholarism, except for having classes and spending time with my family members and girlfriend."

Scholarism has previously refused to rule out besieging the Legislative Council building and starting a second Occupy movement should Legco approve the government's model for the 2017 chief executive poll. But Wong said he still had no clear plan for the group's future, regardless of how the vote reform went.

"As Hongkongers we can never go back," he said. "After occupying, after voting, besides keeping shouting 'restart political reform' and 'I want real universal suffrage', how we should deal with the democratic movement's framework and strategy is a question no Hongkonger can avoid. I hope Scholarism can find an answer in the coming months."