Activist Joshua Wong’s party say they are disappointed that the leadership of the Asia Society has failed to take remedial measures, after Wong was rejected from speaking at an event at its Hong Kong centre.

Freedom of expression NGO PEN Hong Kong planned to host a book launch at the Asia Society’s Hong Kong centre. However, they were told that Wong – one of the book’s authors – would not be allowed to speak. The organisation then switched the event to the Foreign Correspondents Club in Central.

Asia Society’s New York headquarters said in a statement on Friday that “it is clear that an error in judgement at the staff level was made involving the PEN Hong Kong event.”

Joshua Wong
Joshua Wong. Photo: Demosistō.

It also said Wong and speakers from all sides are welcome at the Asia Society.


But Wong and his party Demosisto expressed frustration with the claim on Friday.

“This prompts the question on the basis of such a decision. More importantly, the party is disappointed to learn that in the statement, the leadership of Asia Society had not taken any measures to remedy the situation,” a statement from Demosisto read.

“Demosisto emphasizes that an evident erosion to the freedom of the press and expression in Hong Kong was caused by the Asia Society’s self-censorship.”

The party noted that the PEN Hong Kong Event was not an isolated incident, since the Hong Kong centre had cancelled a screening of Raise The Umbrellas, a documentary on the 2014 Occupy protests, to which the party’s chairman, lawmaker Nathan Law, was invited.

“While the prominent educational organization envisioned to ‘promot[e] mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context’, the recent circumstances suggest otherwise,” the Demosisto statement said.

Ronnie Chan
Ronnie Chan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The board of trustees of the Asia Society’s Hong Kong centre include Ronnie Chan, a real estate mogul and key supporter of former chief executive Leung Chun-ying. Chan, who had not received any honours from the government in the past, was recently awarded the top honour by Leung during the last days of his administration.

Hugo Restall, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Asia, tweeted that former pro-democracy lawmaker Martin Lee said he has not been invited to attend any functions as guest or speaker at the Hong Kong centre for some 20 years, since Ronnie Chan took the position.

However, Lee said he had been invited to speak at the Asia Society in New York and other US cities quite a few times.

In May, Asia Society in New York also hosted Joshua Wong at an event, while he was visiting the US.

On Friday afternoon, PEN Hong Kong posted a statement calling upon Asia Society to help it defend freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.