The young boy who ‘shook’ Malaysia

Khoo Ying Hooi
The Malaysian Insider
1 June 2015

My diary on May 30 was marked as this, “Joshua Wong, Dubook Press, 9am”.

I was eager to meet Joshua in person when I found out about his road tour in Malaysia. Then my “dream” was crushed as he was barred from entering Malaysia on the morning of Tuesday, May 26.

I was keen to hear his talk. Apart from him being a high-profile teenager, I wanted to meet him in person, as I wanted to know how a young boy at his age manages to mobilise or influence his peers to engage in acts of civil disobedience.

What fascinates me is his persistence in fighting what he thinks he should, despite the immense pressure and intimidation on him.
Joshua, a Hong Kong student activist who founded Scholarism in 2011, needs no further introduction. He and his group played a significant role in last year’s Occupy pro-democracy movement. That’s precisely how he gained his “superstar” status.

Here are some quotes by the international media on Joshua. The Telegraph wrote this, “At 15, he organised a hunger strike and a 120,000-strong protest that succeeded in foiling Beijing’s plans to implement patriotic education in Hong Kong’s schools.”

While The Guardian said this: “Joshua Wong is too young to drive or buy a drink in a bar – let alone vote – yet has become the face of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.”

He has also named as top 10 in the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders 2015 by the Fortune Magazine, Time’s Most Influential Teens of 2014 and 100 Leading Global Thinkers 2014 by Foreign Policy.

Having said that, there has nonetheless criticism that Scholarism gained popularity, especially in the Western media, solely due to the fact that it is an anti-China group. However, what’s more significant in this is that similarly as other student groups, Scholarism too faces challenges to sustain itself.

For Scholarism that has gained instant popularity, their key members are under tremendous pressure. However these young teenagers have, to a certain extent, managed to transform these pressures to source of strength.

Unfortunately back home, the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said that Joshua is an “undesirable element” to the country due to his anti-China sentiment.

Following that, Hong Kong legislative council member Leung Kwok-hung, famously known as “Long Hair,” was also barred from entering Malaysia.

The point is, the Putrajaya needs to understand that there is no point to bar a person nowadays. We are in the information age, where information could be obtained with just one click. Ultimately, the road tour proceeds “virtually” through tele-conference and subsequently replaced by his comrade, Prince Wong.

In the past, we have barred several other activists or controversial figures. For example, William Bourdon, the French lawyer for the controversial Scorpene case in France. Similar “treatment” went to Australian Senator Nick Xenophone and anti-Lynas activist Natalie Lowrey.

Last October, Putrajaya denied the entry of Indonesian Muslim scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla who was supposed to speak in the 3rd International Conference on Human Rights and Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia.

Take the case of Ulil for instance, he tweeted, “As sad as this ban might be, it won’t work. Authority might ban my entrance to Malaysia. But Islamic progressive ideas can’t be stopped.”

We should remain open to legitimate political discourse on issues, including the dissenting voices. After all, these people are not terrorists.

On what basis do we “claim” they are threats to national security? – June 1, 2015.

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