By Joy Pamnani
Last month, Hong Kong held its first Legislative Council elections since the Umbrella Revolution in 2014.
Among the pro-establishment and pan-democratic camp, a new group of localists emerged, with an aim of preserving the city’s autonomy and local culture.
Nathan Law Kwun-chung, 23, a key student leader during the Occupy Protests was a localist elected in the legislature.
Law is the youngest politician Hong Kong has seen, representing a generation of youngsters in their fight for genuine universal suffrage.
Law’s political background goes back to the Umbrella Movement in 2014, where Law and Joshua Wong were important student leaders in the city’s fight for universal suffrage.
A the time, Law delivered those protesting on the streets for democracy. He was also involved in meeting officials during the movement, calling for a genuine implementation of universal suffrage in 2017 Chief Executive elections.
The Year 5 Cultural Studies student never thought of entering politics as a child, thinking of it as “a dirty game with people fighting among one another for self-interest”, as quoted in an SCMP article.
But witnessing the “limitations” of established pan-democratic parties in the city’s sit-ins, he decided to take on making Hong Kong a better place.
Law formed a new party with Umbrella Revolution student leader Joshua Wong in April 2016, calling for Hong Kong people to have the right to vote in a referendum on independence from Beijing.
The group has vowed to hold a referendum in 10 years to let the people decide their own fate beyond 2047, when the principle of “one country, two systems” expires, and secured a seat in the Legislative Council with its 23-year-old chairman Nathan Law serving as a legislator from the Hong Kong Island geographic constituency.
The idea of independence has circulated throughout the city, yet received backlash from the local government.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced “Hong Kong independence” should not be a discussion topic at schools, also warning teachers they could lose qualifications if they advocate independence in class.
However, the team has pledged to work for the “self-determination of Hongkongers”, with the use of non-violent means.
Few days back, Hong Kong saw its new legislative councillors sworn in. During the ceremony, three pan-democrats and localists wearing “Hong Kong is Not China” banners’ oaths were declared invalid, after they modified the words and insulted China.
After Law was sworn in as a lawmaker, he asked Legislative Council Secretary General Kenneth Chen what authority he had to decide that three members’ oaths were invalid, and whether they were allowed to vote for the Legislative Council President on Wednesday afternoon.
Despite not getting an answer, Law kept his cool, and quoted Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. “You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”
While youth political participation is uncommon in today’s age, but the case is different in Hong Kong.
According to Dr Chor-yung Cheung, a professor at City University of Hong Kong, the city’s unique status as a Special Administrative Region is a reason why.
“The deadlock in Hong Kong’s democratic development plays an important role in youth activism here,” Cheung told RISE NEWS in an interview.
The rise of youth activism in Hong Kong began in 2009, during anti-express rail campaign.
In the days leading up to the Umbrella Revolution, a student class boycott was held at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, in response to Beijing ruling out public nomination for the city.
More young people stepped in during the protests.
“After the Umbrella Movement in 2014, many young people here are very unhappy about the political deadlock we have in Hong Kong and quite a number of them have become politically very active, to the extent that they now is an important political force in Hong Kong,” Cheung said.
Through the elections, Law has seen Hong Kong people want a democratic future.
With the support of the public, Law hopes to bring about political change in the future.
“We inherited some spirit from the (Umbrella) Movement and I hope that that can continue in the future,” Law said, in an interview with Hong Kong Free Press.
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Cover Photo Credit: Nathan Law/ Facebook