Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Student Leaders Plan New Political Party

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Occupy Central leader Joshua Wong speaks to the media after a vote at the city's legislature in Hong Kong, June 18, 2015.
Occupy Central leader Joshua Wong speaks to the media after a vote at the city's legislature in Hong Kong, June 18, 2015.

Hong Kong's student activist group Scholarism is planning to set up a new political party to contest seats in forthcoming elections for the city's Legislative Council (LegCo) in the wake of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, or Umbrella movement.

The new party, which has yet to be named, will be co-chaired by Joshua Wong, a key figure in the 2014 civil disobedience campaign for fully democratic elections, which occupied major roads in the city for 79 days, and drew hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets at its height.

Oscar Lai will lead the party alongside Wong, with plans to campaign on a "socially oriented" platform, one of its members told RFA, although local media reports had said fellow student activist Agnes Chow would form a triumvirate with Wong and Lai.

Chow has told reporters that the group, which has around 20 members so far, seeks to offer a different take on Hong Kong politics from existing pan-democratic parties.

Meanwhile Lai, the only member old enough for candidacy so far, has said he plans to run for a seat in LegCo in the Kowloon East constituency at elections in September.

Group member Prince Wong said media reports about the new party were highly speculative, however.

"There are a lot of things ... that haven't become a reality yet," Prince Wong told RFA. "The party will be formed by Joshua Wong and Oscar Lai, but only Oscar Lai is eligible to run for election at the present time."

Calls to Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong's phone rang unanswered on Wednesday.

Wong wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday that the new group has been meeting with other groups that took part in the Umbrella movement to discuss the planned new party.

"In the next month or so, we will have to focus on doing a lot of organizing and preparatory work," he wrote. "We will be looking for comrades who want to find a non-violent solution for the pro-democracy movement by breaking into new territory in LegCo so we can fight for Hong Kong's future."

The new party appears to have been formed as a breakaway group after it failed to persuade other members of Scholarism to turn that group into a political party rather than a campaigning group.

'Umbrella soldiers'

According to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, the move "is the latest in a series of developments that highlight young Hong Kong activists’ rise in political prominence in recent years."

Last November, former pro-democracy activists, known as "Umbrella Soldiers," won eight seats on Hong Kong's directly elected district councils.

Analysts said the results showed strong and continuing public engagement with the political life of the former British colony, whose pan-democratic lawmakers voted down a limited electoral reform plan imposed by Beijing's parliament in June 2015.

Yau Wai Ching, who was elected as a district councillor for the New Youth Party last year, said her party may also now set its sights on the LegCo elections.

"I think we do have a chance of success at getting into LegCo," Yau said. "It's a question of manpower and timing, especially as voting takes place in September."

"There's only six months left now, and I don't know how or if we'd get enough campaigning done in that time."

She said the involvement of young people in politics is unlikely to stop, regardless of the end of the Occupy Central movement.

"We are just a bunch of ordinary Hong Kong citizens, and we see social problems from that perspective," Yau said. "I hope that we can also represent the real people of Hong Kong by ... getting seats on councils, so as to fight for their interests."

Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement, so named after thousands of protesters used umbrellas to stave off pepper spray and tear gas in clashes with riot police on Sept. 28, 2014, brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the city's streets at its height amid widespread calls for fully democratic elections.

A decree from China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), which activists and pan-democratic politicians dismissed as "fake universal suffrage," would have required any candidates running for chief executive in 2017 to be approved by Beijing.

However, the NPC's reform package was eventually voted down in the city's Legislative Council last June, and the current system of election by a pro-Beijing committee still stands.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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