Hong Kong's Joshua Wong denies he's a separatist

Ryland JAMES
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Wong called on the free world to take concrete action to stand with Hong Kong protesters

Wong called on the free world to take concrete action to stand with Hong Kong protesters (AFP Photo/MICHELE TANTUSSI)

Berlin (AFP) - Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong denied Wednesday that he is a separatist, saying he simply wants free elections for the former British colony -- a promise enshrined in the 1997 handover agreement between Britain and China.

On a visit to Berlin as he sought to drum up international support for the pro-democracy movement, Wong called on the free world to take concrete action to stand with Hong Kong protesters.

Hong Kong is the new Berlin, he said, alluding to the German capital's divided past where protesters brought down the Wall separating a communist East and a democratic West.

The Asian financial powerhouse is today the frontline of the fight against Beijing's rule, the 22-year-old argued.

"Three decades ago, no one expected the Soviet Union would fall. No one predicted the Berlin Wall will fall. With our pressure and determination we just hope to let the world (be) aware that the Hong Kong people deserve democracy.

"Some brand me as a separatist. But just let me make it clear: Hong Kong is asking for election system reform. We just hope to elect our own government. We just hope to elect the chief executive of Hong Kong," he told journalists in Berlin.

China has repeatedly warned it will not tolerate any move towards independence for Hong Kong, threatening to crack down hard on any "separtatist" groups.

Wong pointed to pledges made in the Hong Kong handover agreement.

"Before 1997, Beijing promised to let the Hong Kong people enjoy the right of free election... so we will continue our fight until the day we enjoy democracy," he vowed.

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under a handover agreement that guaranteed the territory certain levels of autonomy and freedoms unseen on the Chinese mainland.

That "one country, two systems" status persists but there are increasing criticisms of Beijing policies in the city, with accusations it is trying to muzzle criticism and keep opponents out of the city's legislature.

Millions of people have demonstrated in recent months in the biggest challenge to China's rule of the financial hub since its handover from Britain.

- 'Right and freedom' -

Wong acknowledged that China's economic might may make world leaders hesitate about speaking out forcefully in favour of the protesters.

But he stressed that "we're not seeking any world leaders or any countries to interfere in Hong Kong's process but it's a must for the free world to support Hong Kong's democratisation."

Statements are not enough, he said, calling for concrete action from the West.

Germany, he said, should stop delivering equipment to riot police in Hong Kong.

And the United States should pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement, he said.

The proposed law could undermine Hong Kong's special US trade privileges by mandating regular checks on whether authorities were respecting the Basic Law that underpins the city's semi-autonomous status.

Wong will travel to the United States on Friday, where he will seek "bipartisan support" for his cause.

"I'm not sure how many days months or years it would take for us (to obtain) democracy and freedom.

"I hope one day, not only Hong Kong but also mainland China people can enjoy human rights and freedom."