The young anti-China activists are triumphant in the city-wide legislative election in Hong Kong vote.
By: Roshni Kapur
A new generation of pro-democracy activists is set to become lawmakers after winning the city-wide legislative election. They are now pushing for Hong Kong’s independence from China, an outcome that is likely to raise further tension with Communist Party rulers in Beijing.
The legislative election is the biggest poll since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014.
Among them is Nathan Law, a student leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement demonstrations. Law has secured a seat in the Legislative Council (LegCo), making him the youngest lawmaker. LegCo is Hong Kong’s lawmaking body. He and his new party Demosisto are pushing for local residents to have a right to vote in a referendum on Hong Kong’s self-determination.
“I think Hong Kongers really wanted change,” Law was quoted in an online article on AFP.
“Young people have a sense of urgency when it comes to the future.”
Law was representing his party Demosisto which he founded with fellow Umbrella Movement leader Joshua Wong. Throughout the campaign, he projected himself as a bridge to unite the varying factions of the democratic camp, which is divided between those not in favour of a pro-independence stance and new activists who want more autonomy.
The voter turnout was high where 2.2 million people queued to vote in the city-wide legislative elections which ended in the early hours of Monday. Some polling stations were open until 2:30 am on Monday- four hours later than the scheduled cut-off time thanks to the high turnout of voters. The announcement of full results was delayed by several hours due to the record voter turnout.
The election result is the best that the democrats can do who have retained one third of the seats in LegCo, giving them the right to veto constitutional changes. The parliament’s structure favours Beijing where 30 of the 70 seats in the council are nominated by special interest groups. These special interest groups represent a variety of businesses and social sectors whose seats usually go to pro-Beijing candidates.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement that preserves its freedoms and semi-autonomy. However, many young activists think that the agreement has fallen short.
Fears have enveloped that Beijing is tightening its grip on Hong Kong in a range of areas including politics and education. Earlier this year, five city booksellers known for controversial titles about Beijing politicians suddenly disappeared, reappearing in detention on the mainland.
This galvanised the “localist” movement that emerged out of the failure of the 2014 rallies to push for greater autonomy from China. In 2014, tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens joined the Umbrella Revolution calling for full democracy, suffrage and the protection of their way of life. Many young activists are now campaigning for Hong Kong’s absolute independence from the mainland- a subject previously taboo.
However, the Beijing government has always resisted calls for Hong Kong’s independence, denouncing pro-democracy protests and naming the 2014 street occupations “illegal”.
“Independence is not realistic at all,” Elizabeth Quat, a member of a pro-Beijing party was quoted in an online article on the BBC.
“Hopefully this will not be their main objective.”
The BBC also quoted the Hong Kong government’s Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Raymond Tam who said it would do its best to “bring them [radical activists] around to a more centrist position”.
Law rose to prominence during the 2014 demonstrations delivering speeches to tens of thousands who took to the streets. After the Umbrella Movement that failed to win political reform, hopes in the pro-democracy camp decreased, with Law and Wong in and out of court on protest-related charges.
Last month, Law was convicted of inciting people to join an unlawful assembly, but escaped prison sentence with a community service sentence.