Joshua Wong, who became the face of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” as a teenager, walked free from prison on Monday and urged the territory’s leader Carrie Lam to step down amid days of mass protests against a controversial extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to China for trial.
The 22-year-old was released from the Lai Chi Kok Correctional Facility after completing a two-month sentence for his part in the so-called Umbrella pro-democracy protests that brought the city to a standstill five years ago.
Before being jailed, Wong had called for the Hong Kong government to scrap the planned changes in the extradition law, which has for now been shelved indefinitely.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive on Sunday apologised to the public and “promised to accept criticism with the most sincere and humble attitude”. But protesters have continued to demand her resignation.
“She is no longer qualified to be Hong Kong’s leader,” Wong told reporters. “She must take the blame and resign, be held accountable and step down.”
On Saturday, the chief executive had bowed to public pressure and suspended deliberation of the bill, but did not drop the proposal completely. The territory’s leader is chosen from a pre-selected list of candidates vetted by the government in Beijing.
Some demonstrators faced off with police in the heart of the city on Monday morning, a day after an estimated two million people marched through the streets of the semi-autonomous territory.
Wong, clutching his belongings and dressed in a white shirt, was mobbed by media and supporters as he walked out of the jail.
Al Jazeera correspondent Sarah Clarke, reporting from Hong Kong, described Wong’s release as “extraordinary timing” for the pro-democracy groups and those opposed to the extradition treaty.
Wong’s sentence was reduced to two months from three because he was only 17 when he was arrested in 2014.
The pro-democracy activist won his appeal against a separate conviction and six-month sentence for unlawful assembly and was released after spending more than two months in prison in that case.