Hong Kong: Teenage protest leader Joshua Wong, poster child of Hong Kong`s pro-democracy movement, turned 18 on Monday and said his birthday wish was safety for loved ones as tensions in the city spilt over.
With his trademark black-rimmed glasses and mop of hair, Wong has emerged as a charismatic spokesman for the campaign for free elections -- but said his main birthday wish was for those close to him to remain unharmed, rather than any political goal.
In a post on his Facebook page he listed three wishes, with the first being: "Safety for family members, my girlfriend, and other fellow students."
University student Wong -- who has been featured on the front pages of magazines and whose private life is discussed in Hong Kong`s gossip pages -- also wished his fellow protesters the "willpower to fight on" and said he hoped China would allow the city "true universal suffrage".
Hong Kong is due to hold leadership elections in 2017, but China has insisted it vet the candidates in what protesters call "fake democracy".
Demonstrators have blocked and barricaded main roads in Admiralty and two other districts for more than two weeks to press their demands.
Wong was keeping a close eye on developments throughout the day as masked men descended on barricades at the main rally site in the central business district of Admiralty, triggering clashes with protesters, just hours after police had removed some barriers.
"These events seem to be really coincidental," Wong said on his Facebook page -- which has more than 230,000 followers.
Earlier Monday he had warned of ramped-up police action after unmanned barricades at the edges of protest sites in Admiralty and secondary protest site Mongkok were taken away in a dawn operation.
"By removing these barricades the government is testing the waters of what reaction the people remaining at the site will have, in preparation for a large-scale removal in the future," Wong told reporters.
"We urge citizens to quickly travel to these occupied sites."
But it hasn`t been all work and no play for Wong. In an early celebration, fellow protesters presented him with a bright yellow cake in the shape of an umbrella -- an emblem of the movement after demonstrators used them as protection from police tear gas and pepper spray.
Wong, who heads the student protest group Scholarism, rose to prominence in 2012 when he helped organise mass rallies against plans for "patriotic education" in Hong Kong schools -- seen as a Beijing brainwashing exercise.
The protests forced the Hong Kong government to shelve the idea.
In an interview with AFP in July, he spoke of the need for a concerted civil disobedience campaign, but said it was optimism for the future that kept him going.
"Without hope I wouldn`t be doing this now. I do this because I think there is hope."