Police investigating conference in which Joshua Wong spoke for breach of work permit condition

18441

Police are investigating an event in which Joshua Wong, a youth democracy leader of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, spoke via Skype. Police told the organiser of the event, Mr Jolovan Wham, that he would need a work permit even if he was addressing the audience using Skype.

Wong, the face of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution and Secretary General of Hong Kong’s Demosisto Party, spoke at a conference titled ‘Civil Disobedience and Social Movements’ on 26 Nov. The conference was organised by Community Action Network (CAN!) – an affiliation of socio-political activists and cause journalists. Journalist Kirsten Han and political activist Seelan Palay were the other speakers at the conference.

Writing in his Facebook Mr Wham said that a permit was not granted for Wong to speak at the conference but his co-organiser Rachel Zeng and him “went ahead anyway because it was a harmless and straightforward discussion about social movements.”

Mr Wham said that the police were very professional in questioning him and that they even shared a few light moments together.

“When it ended, he walked me out to the lift and thanked me for my cooperation. Finally I asked him “don’t you think it’s a waste of time investigating such cases? Aren’t there real criminals out there to catch?” He looked a little embarrassed and laughed a little nervously. Then he composed himself and said “the police takes every case seriously””

Mr Tan Tee Seng the director of The Opinion Collaborative which owns the venue, the Agora, in which the event happened responded to Mr Wham’s post and said: “First in the first world to require a work permit and a license for talking over Skype. No wonder we will not produce any Facebook, Airbnb and Apple and the likes. Unless we free ourselves from this mind strangle, we will only be retarded society.”

Joshua Wong was recently deported from Thailand ‘at China’s request’ in October. Last year he was similarly barred from entering Malaysia. It is believed that these countries do not want to jeopardise their ties with China by allowing entry to the activist who has been a thorn in the side of the Chinese government.

The Umbrella Revolution was a series of sit-in street protests that occurred in Hong Kong from 26 September to 15 December 2014. The protests began after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) issued a decision regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system. The decision was widely seen to be highly restrictive, and tantamount to the Chinese Communist Party’s pre-screening of the candidates for the leader of Hong Kong. Students led by Wong protested against the NPCSC’s decision.

Wong was also accused by certain media outlets of receiving donations and conspiring with the United States during the movement; he was also criticised for opposing the government for no apparent reason, and considered as an extremist. Wong, in response, dismissed the allegations as baseless, and re-emphasised the non-violent nature of the movement.

In 2011 the Police probed the Singapore Democratic Party for organsing a forum in which two former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees spoke via SKYPE. The police investigated  whether the law has been breached by the SDP.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said then that SDP had arranged for “a fugitive from justice” (referring to the late Francis Seow) and “a foreign national” (in reference to Tang Fong Har, age 59) to participate in a discussion on domestic politics. MHA further claimed that the forum organisers had arranged for Seow and Tang to participate in the forum from outside the country’s jurisdiction, allowing them to be “involved in domestic politics at a public assembly in Singapore without being physically present and accountable”.