Echoing Tiananmen, 17-year-old Hong Kong student prepares for democracy battle

Story highlights

17-year-old Joshua Wong aims to incite youth civil disobedience in Hong Kong

His goal is to pressure China into giving Hong Kong full universal suffrage

Hu Jia, a Chinese dissident, says Wong could be arrested or jailed

"The Communist Party is very scared" of Hong Kong, says Hu

Hong Kong CNN  — 

He’s one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he’s been called an “extremist” by China’s state-run media — and he’s not even old enough to drive.

Meet 17-year-old Joshua Wong, a skinny, bespectacled teen whose meager physical frame belies the ferocity of his politics. Over the last two years, the student has built a pro-democracy youth movement in Hong Kong that one veteran Chinese dissident says is just as significant as the student protests at Tiananmen, 25 years ago.

Echoing the young campaigners who flooded Beijing’s central square in 1989, the teen activist wants to ignite a wave of civil disobedience among Hong Kong’s students. His goal? To pressure China into giving Hong Kong full universal suffrage.

Wong’s movement builds on years of pent-up frustration in Hong Kong.

When the former colony of the United Kingdom was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, the two countries struck an agreement promising Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy,” including the democratic election of its own leader. But 17 years later, little resembling genuine democracy has materialized. China’s latest proposal suggests Hong Kongers may vote for their next leader, but only if the candidates are approved by Beijing.

Wong is bent on fighting the proposal — and impatient to win.

“I don’t think our battle is going to be very long,” he tells CNN. “If you have the mentality that striving for democracy is a long, drawn-out war and you take it slowly, you will never achieve it.

“You have to see every battle as possibly the final battle — only then will you have the determination to fight.”

Youth awakening

Doubt him if you like, but the young activist already has a successful track record of opposition.

In 2011, Wong, then 15, became disgusted with a proposal to introduce patriotic, pro-Communist “