Who is Joshua Wong? China Blasts U.S. For 'Ludicrous' Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow walk out of the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, China January 16. This week, China condemned the U.S. for nominating Wong and his colleagues for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Reuters

Beijing hit back at the U.S. for interfering with China's affairs on Friday, after a dozen American congress members nominated Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and its most prominent student leader for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

In nominating Joshua Wong, 21, and his colleagues Nathan Law, 24, and Alex Chow, 27, who led tens of thousands in the former British colony's largest pro-democracy protest in 2014, the lawmakers wanted to recognize "their peaceful efforts to bring political reform and self-determination to Hong Kong."

The protests, which the Chinese and Hong Kong governments deemed illegal, were part of a populist uprising that posed one of the greatest challenges for Communist Party rulers in Beijing in decades.

On Friday, Global Times, China's ruling Communist Party official newspaper, responded with an op-ed that severely condemned the "ludicrous" nomination.

"The political agenda behind the US congressmen's nomination is too obvious and it would be a shame if the Norwegian Nobel Committee blindly followed their directive," it said. "Even by Western standards, Wong and the others are too young. By nominating them for the Nobel Peace Prize, the West is adopting pets—and it looks ludicrous."

In addition, China's Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Reuters that stated that Wong and the others involved in the protests had been punished in accordance with the law, labeling the protests they led as "illegal from head to toe."

"We urge the relevant U.S. Congressmen to stop interfering in Hong Kong and China's internal affairs, and do more to benefit the development of Sino-U.S. ties rather than the opposite," it added.

Wong, who faces two appeals over separate jail sentences, said he hoped the nomination would give more bargaining power to the city's democratic movement.

"I believe the nomination would show the international community and [Chinese President] Xi Jinping how the young generation will persist in fighting for democracy, even if we have to face imprisonment or a permanent ban from public office," Wong said.

If Wong wins, he would be the second youngest person to receive a Nobel Prize after Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she became a laureate in 2014.

Tens of thousands of protesters, some wielding umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray, set up camp on major highways for 79 days in late 2014. But the mostly peaceful protests failed to pressure Hong Kong and Beijing authorities to grant the city full democracy.

Critics decry a series of subsequent "payback" incidents, including months-long jail terms for the trio and, most recently, a ban on Wong's ally, Agnes Chow, running in a legislature by-election.

Hong Kong authorities have denied political interference, saying everything was done in accordance with the law.

China's only Nobel Peace Prize winner, dissident intellectual Liu Xiaobo, died last July, becoming the first Nobel Laureate to die in custody since Carl von Ossietzky died under Nazi Germany's watch in 1938.

This winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in October.