American citizen, 20, in Hong Kong says the U.S. embassy refused to give him refuge as he faces prosecution for taking part in pro-democracy protests
- Ansen Wong, an American citizen, said he was turned away by the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong, China, last month
- Wong was seeking protection from prosecution in relation to his role in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests
- A specialist noted that that giving refuge to an individual inside the consulate could upset Chinese officials – leaving room for an international incident
- Protests began in March 2019 after Hong Kong officials proposed the Fugitive Offender amendment bill
An American citizen facing trial for his role in Hong Kong‘s pro-democracy protests claimed he was turned away by the city’s U.S. consulate after asking for protection.
Ansen Wong, a 20-year-old student activist, was among hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens who rallied in the streets for demonstrations beginning in March 2019.
Wall Street Journal reports that the California-born activist was convicted with criminal damage, similar to vandalism, regarding the wide scale protests.
Ansen Wong, a 20-year-old student activist and American citizen, said he was denied refuge at the U.S. consulate while seeking protection from prosecution
A demonstrator throws a rock on a footbridge during an anti-government protest near City University in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, China
His most recent charge of unlawful assembly came after he joined others in a massive pro-democracy protest outside of Hong Kong’s legislature last year.
‘I am running out of options,’ Wong told WSJ.
Wong was reportedly in the midst of contesting the charges, but accidentally missed a mandatory court date on the same day he visited the U.S. consulate.
People are typically given light sentences over unlawful assembly, but the crime can result in up to five years in prison.
Wong told WSJ that he approached the consulate on October 27 with three others who also sought refuge there.
An official reportedly told Wong refuge couldn’t be offered and directed him to find a lawyer. He added that diplomats would keep an eye on his case.
Tony Chung (pictured), a 19-year-old fellow activist, was supposed to accompany the group to the consulate but was arrested earlier that day at a coffee shop.
Tony Chung, a 19-year-old fellow activist, was supposed to accompany the group to the consulate but was arrested earlier that day at a coffee shop.
Chung was an organizer for Studentlocalism, a pro-democracy organization. He was arrested by Hong Kong’s national security unit over social medis posts he made in September.
Wong’s attempt to secure protections highlights the plight facing many of Hong Kong’s protesters, who fear facing criminal charges for their opposition to China’s Communist Party.
A group of demonstrators attempting to escape to Taiwan via speedboat were snatched and arrested by Chinese authorities in August. They were jailed shortly after.
The demonstrations began last year after officials introduced the Fugitive Offender amendment bill, which would have allowed Hong Kong to detain and extradite fugitives to places like Taiwan, Mainland China.
Critics feared that the legislation would allow people to be detained in Mainland China, where laws are governed by the Communist Party.
What sparked was the streets of Hong Kong being flooded by activists and clashes with police officers that further galvanized the demonstrators.
Protestors hold up their lit-up mobile phones as they attend a gathering at the Edinburgh place in Hong Kong, China, November 28, 2019
The United States have offered support to the pro-democracy protesters and vowed to give priority to asylum seekers in Hong Kong.
But WSJ reports that Wong’s situation underscored the limitations of the U.S.’s support as officials try to navigate diplomacy with China.
Jude Blanchette, a China specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told WSJ that giving refuge to an individual inside the consulate could upset Chinese officials – leaving room for an international incident.
While U.S. embassies and consulates do offer protection for those who fear impending harm, they typically don’t offer the same shelter for people hoping to avoid prosecution ‘except in the narrowest of circumstances.’
Riot police guard over arrested anti-government protesters in the Central district of Hong Kong this May
A specialist noted that that giving refuge to an individual inside the consulate could upset Chinese officials
Wong, a university student and bar tender, said his life changed when he became emerged in activism.
‘I grew up here, and I love this place,’ Wong told WSJ about Hong Kong. ‘When I saw its liberty being hindered every day, I knew I had to do something.
He added that Hong Kong authorities currently have possession of his original U.S. passport. He currently has a copy on hand.
Wong explained that he visited the U.S. consulate from Friends of Hong Kong, a London-based group that introduced him to other asylum seekers with hopes they could obtain protection together.
Friends of Hong Kong reportedly sent an information package to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October regarding the asylum seekers.
The group decided to visit the consulate after the State Department did not respond.