Hong Kong protests: Who is Joshua Wong, the poster child of the resistance movement?

Nicola Smith
Joshua Wong speaks to the media shortly after being released from prison - Getty Images AsiaPac

The hopes of many Hong Kong protesters have fallen on the young shoulders of Joshua Wong, a poster child of the peaceful civil resistance movement for the past five years.

Like the teenagers experiencing their first taste of street protests over the divisive extradition bill, Mr Wong was just 17 when he became a high-profile leader of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement”, which locked down city streets for two months in a demand for fully free elections.

Mr Wong, who electrified crowds with his calls for civil disobedience, was back to his old form on Monday after his unexpected early release from a two-month jail term on charges related to the 2014 rallies.

"After the end of the Umbrella Movement we claimed we would be back. Finally, five years later we did it,” said the self-assured young activist.

"It's lucky that Beijing and Carrie Lam transformed a whole generation of youngsters from normal citizens to dissidents. That's the price that Beijing must pay," Mr Wong said.

Joshua Wong, shortly after he was released from prison Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP

The extradition controversy has led many Hong Kongers born after the 1997 handover to China to realise that it will ultimately fall to them to fight to protect the city’s treasured independence and freedoms.

For the younger generation, Mr Wong, who at 22 has already been named one of the world's most influential figures by Time, Fortune and Foreign Policy magazines, is an inspirational leader to rally behind.

Mr Wong remains a headache for mainland China, with his tale narrated in the 2017 Netflix documentary ‘Teenager vs Superpower’.

Just hours after his release he addressed cheering protesters with his cries for democracy. He asked supporters for time to recalibrate his strategy but vowed to return to the front lines.

Bonnie Leung, a prominent activist behind the recent mass protests, said Mr Wong was one of a group of charismatic leaders who had gained the trust of the young.

“I’m sure with help and people willing to follow them that great things would happen,” she said.