Hong Kong, June 17 (IANS) Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, an iconic 2014 Umbrella Revolution leader, walked free from a Hong Kong prison on Monday after serving a two-month sentence and urged the territory’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down amid days of massive protests against a controversial extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to China for trial.
The activist confirmed his release on social media, tweeting: “Hello world and hello freedom. I have just been released from prison. GO HONG KONG!! Withdraw the extradition bill. Carrie Lam step down. Drop all political prosecutions!”
His release coincided with the massive protest demonstrations in the past week that rocked the former British colony with people demanding the withdrawal of the bill amid concerns that it would compromise on civil liberties and judicial system of the semi-autonomous region.
Speaking to the media after his release, Wong said he had already served his sentence imposed on him, Efe news reported.
The student leader, who became the face of Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014, said he would soon join the protests against the controversial bill.
Referring to the protests, Wong said: “I thank the two million people who marched yesterday, and the one million people last week, and those Hong Kong people on the front lines defending violent attacks by the police on June 12.”
“We demand Carrie Lam step down, retract the extradition bill and withdraw the labelling of ‘riot’,” he said, referring to the phrase used by local authorities and Beijing to describe the demonstrations.
The bill has met with massive opposition across the region over concerns by human rights organizations that it would allow activists, non-profit workers and journalists be tried in a judicial system in mainland China which offers no guarantees.
“Hong Kong people will not bow down to the authoritarian regime (in Beijing). Stop arresting and charging protesters. Otherwise, Hong Kong people will fight back more,” said Wong, who predicted more protests in the coming weeks if Lam did not step down.
Lam suspended but did not withdraw the bill. She also issued a statement offering an apology but still over a million people showed up on Sunday calling for the withdrawal of the bill and her resignation.
According to organizers, nearly two million people took part in the protest while police put the figure at 338,000.
The organizers of protests have on Monday called a general strike which has not received much support as yet, the report said.