Former 2014 protest leader Joshua Wong announced he will run in forthcoming elections for Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo), in spite of concerns that he could be targeted for political reprisals by Beijing.
Wong announced he would run in primary elections run by pan-democratic parties in the city, which are hoping to sweep the board in LegCo in forthcoming elections this September.
The election comes as the ruling Chinese Communist Party prepares to impose a draconian subversion and sedition law on the city, bypassing LegCo, that will see China's feared state security police allowed to operate in the city, in spite of promises Hong Kong would retain its traditional freedoms and status as a separate jurisdiction.
Wong said he hopes to win "the endorsement of the people of Hong Kong" for his approach to the protest movement, which has been to use his international profile to build overseas alliances and support for the pro-democracy movement.
"Since the passing of the U.S. Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act [last November], we have seen increased support from international allies and successfully forced the government to withdraw [legal changes allowing extradition to mainland China]," Wong said.
"This is the outcome of our local resistance [to China] and highlights the importance of our international connections," said Wong, who has already been publicly denounced by Chinese officials for being a "black hand" corrupting the youth of Hong Kong.
The draft national security law currently being discussed by the National People's Congress (NPC) standing committee in Beijing criminalizes "acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security."
State media have said that the law targets activities and actions that currently occur in Hong Kong, and that must be "prevented, stopped and punished." Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly claimed that front-line protesters have engaged in "terrorism" and have been incited to do so by "foreign forces."
Law widely criticized
The law has been widely criticized by foreign governments and rights organizations as being in breach of China's obligations under the 1984 treaty governing the 1997 handover of Hong Kong, and as paving the way for further political prosecutions of peaceful critics of the government, democracy campaigners, and rights activists.
Wong said he hopes that a landslide victory in LegCo elections could make it clearer to Beijing and the rest of the world just how much Hong Kong's voters oppose the national security law and support the move to boost overseas support for the protest movement.
"The more people vote for candidates active in the international campaign, the more opposition Beijing will face in its campaign to wipe out our international support," Wong said.
"The Hong Kong people's opposition to the national security law and support for our international and online campaign and links with our allies, will be quantified at the ballot box," Wong said.
Pan-democrats are aiming to win more than 35 of LegCo's 70 seats in the Sept. 6 general election. Primaries for the pro-democracy camp will take place on July 11 and 12.
Nathan Law, who co-founded the political campaign group Demosisto with Wong and Agnes Chow in the wake of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, also said he would run in the primaries.
"The fact that I am doing this doesn't mean I'm not afraid," Law said, announcing his candidacy on Friday. "Nobody would be so naive as to think that Nathan Law, Joshua Wong, and Demosisto aren't on the list [of targets under the national security law]."
"But it's important to make sure that if they do go after us and try to suppress us in future, that it's going to cost them more [politically] to do that, because the rest of the world will notice," Law said.
Developments closely watched
United Nations Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet said her office is closely following events in Hong Kong.
She said the implementation of the law, regardless of its final wording, "must fully comply with China's human rights obligations and respect the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong."
The UN Human Rights Office and independent UN human rights experts have previously said that a similar law adopted in mainland China doesn't comply with international human rights standards.
"Such laws can never be used to criminalize conduct and expression that is protected under international human rights law," Bachelet said in a statement on the agency's website.
Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.