Opinion: I stand by my friend Joshua Wong and the people of Hong Kong

On Monday, Joshua Wong was convicted along with two other pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong of violating the law and holding an illegal assembly for leading the protests in 2019.

He will be sentenced on December 2.

They are currently imprisoned, jailed under Hong Kong’s new security law which has made protests difficult and taken away the freedoms that were guaranteed under the constitution.

Wong has been jailed several times, first in 2017. He celebrated his 21st birthday while in prison. He has been jailed many times since.

And every single time, he has come back to fight for more. He fights for a freer Hong Kong, one where its people can determine their own future.

I first invited Joshua Wong to Thailand in 2016 to speak at the 40th anniversary of the October 6 massacre. We planned to take him to visit Ayutthaya and introduce him to some Thai counterparts.

He was arrested at the airport at the behest of Beijing and deported back to Hong Kong.

It was during this time that the friendship between the student leaders here, including myself, and Joshua grew. Despite the dire situation he found himself in, in Hong Kong, Joshua kept an interest in the plight of Thai democracy and always was a ready ally.

Likewise, our interest in the suffering of the Hong Kong demonstrators also grew as their protests made headlines around the world.

Like our situation, the fight in Hong Kong can seem bleak at time. They fight an authoritarian government not only at home but through a imperial aggressor in Xi Jinping and China.

But over the past year, Joshua’s friendship and support of the Thai pro-democracy movement has blossomed into a continental movement of solidarity.

This Milk Tea Alliance has grown far beyond our two homelands but more works remains to be done. It may have come late for the protesters in Hong Kong but Joshua has never wavered and even from his jail cell continues to cultivate the same desire for freedom, peace, human rights and democracy that we are trying to continue here in Thailand and fight for everyday.

We stand by him as he has stood by us and we share with him his hopes, his dreams and desires for a better tomorrow. Although his freedom has been taken away by Beijing, we must unite to show the dictators of the world that the quest to subjugate will not be easy and the free people of the region will not go down without a fight.

Joshua has always been a religious person and he makes it no secret that he finds inspiration in scripture. And like his biblical namesake, Joshua may one day lead his people to the promised land.

I want to end with a statement that Joshua greatly admires from Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo:

“In the conflict between survival of the flesh and dignity of the spirit, if we cower to preserve ourselves, we become mere zombies, despite our trappings of prosperity. If we stand up for our dignity, we live nobly, no matter how much we may risk or suffer.

It is precisely because of such convictions and personal experience that I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop, and I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China.”

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