Hong Kong, June 17 (ANI): Joshua Wong, a pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong, was freed from prison on Monday, a day after authorities said around two billion protesters took to streets to march against a controversial bill that would send criminal suspects to mainland China for persecution.
The 22-year-old Wong, who pledged to join the ongoing mass protest movement demanding the city's Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, to step down, walked free after serving one month of a two-month sentence related to the 'umbrella protests' in 2014, CNN reported.
"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!" the activist tweeted after being released from jail.
"It's really good timing to join the fight for freedom and democracy," he told CNN after his release.
"Five years ago after the end of the Umbrella Movement, we claimed we would be back. Yesterday two million people came to the streets ... it shows Hong Kong people realise this is a long term battle," he added.
Citing Lam's resignation, Wong said, "Why did Carrie Lam need to wait to suspend the bill until 1 million people came to the streets, it's because she's not elected by the people of Hong Kong," adding, "It's time for her to step down."Wong further noted that Beijing too must be looking at the chaos in Hong Kong that is happening amid an ongoing trade war between China and the United States.
"Hong Kong is just a small international city with seven million citizens, but two million people came to the streets, it shows that we have the consensus. She (Carrie Lam) has to end her political career," he said.
The activist also predicted that if the bill is not fully withdrawn and key officials resign, then protests could continue, particularly on July 1, the anniversary of the city's handover from British to Chinese rule and a key annual date for pro-democracy marches.
One of Wong's first actions on Monday after being released was to pay his respects at a memorial in Admiralty, near the main site of the protests, where a man fell to his death Saturday after climbing a shopping mall and displaying signs calling for the withdrawal of the extradition bill.
Wong's political party, Demosisto, has been a part of the several youth groups protesting against the extradition bill, which have been ongoing for weeks.
In a statement Saturday after Lam said she was suspending passage of the controversial bill, Demosisto said that Hong Kongers should "demand that the bill be shelved for good, stand against political prosecution of protesters, condemn police brutality, and call for Lam's resignation.""That Lam continues to blame the bill's widespread opposition as a result of Hong Kongers' misunderstanding of it is also condescending," the statement read.
"Our movement may have won a battle, but the war is not yet over. We urge the international community not to turn away," the party added.
Wong also thanked supporters in Taiwan, where the Hong Kong protests have become a major issue in the country's presidential election, creating yet another major contention for Beijing.
Born in 1996, eight months before control of Hong Kong was handed over from the UK to China, Wong has spent most of his adolescence and all of his early adulthood fighting for the city's rights against what he and others say is increasing encroachment by Beijing. (ANI)