Real Hong Kong News
19th July, 2016
Localism: From Street Protests to Council Chamber (Series, Part 2 of 5)
Baggio Leung Chung-hang, one of the five founding members and convenor of Youngspiration, led his then brand new and energetic team to win a seat at the District Council election earlier this year. Despite being a relatively low-profile political party, Youngspiration took the stagnant political scene in Hong Kong by storm. Although Leung did not win in the constituency he stood in, party member Kwong Po-yin (subsequently left the party on 3/June), a young A&E doctor, snatched the Whampoa West’s District Council member seat from the pro-China camp Lau Wai-wing, who sought to be re-elected, by a marginal 39 votes.
Youngspiration was founded during the Umbrella Revolution, when protest sites were about to be cleared, as the founding members understood that many were angry about the fruitlessness of the 79-day long large scale protest and wanted to find a new route to achieve the goal of a democratic Hong Kong – which is seen by many Yellow Ribbons as defying the “pro-democracy political veterans”.
Leung explained that the party’s keen interest in standing in the upcoming Legislative Council election is based on the shared belief amongst party members that to make real difference to the current situation in Hong Kong, street protest cannot be the only route. They believe that it is important to be in the Legislative Council, which is funded by the taxpayers of Hong Kong – as the past and present legislators are not defending Hongkongers’ interests – and that the resources funding the Legislative Council should be used to improve the livelihood of Hongkongers. “It is a vicious cycle,” said the slight Leung. “The pro-China camp gives hand-outs, the notorious ‘snake (banquet – a Winter cuisine), vegetarian (banquet – Buddhists festivals), mooncake (Mid-Autumn Festival), and rice dumpling (Dragon Boat Festival)’, remains an extremely useful tactic to win ballots amongst the elderly. On the other hand, the pan-democrats keep saying that they cannot compete with the pro-China camp’s well-funded ‘campaigns’ and give up fighting for what is worth fighting for. It is true that we do not get enough funding to dominate in elections, but we believe that only by trying and giving in all we can, things can be changed.”
Competing against the extremely well known pro-China veteran Priscilla Leung Mei-fan, Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching lost the last Whampoa East District Council election by only 305 votes. “It all started online. We were inspired by the Golden Forum’s campaign calling for ‘political greenhorns to take part in the District Council election across all 18 districts’ back then and decided that we can at least try – even though we all knew the chance to win was slim. However, election is not only about money but statistics. We calculated and studied at the polling stations, we think quick and move fast,” said Baggio Leung.
The small marginal win and loss in the last District Election is an important indicator. “Many voters are unhappy with the pro-China camp as well as the pan-democrats for different reasons, but they all wanted a change from the stagnation we are in now,” said the 29-year-old. Leung and his teammates’ goal is to help establish a new political power in Hong Kong – a breakthrough to the essentially two-party landscape. “It is either pro-China or pan-democrats, what about the interests of Hongkongers?” said Leung. “Anyone whose priority is not in line with the best interests of Hongkongers is not our ally, no matter what they claim their stance is – including localism: after all, actions speak louder than words. Do you honestly think that DAB has the best interests of Hongkongers at heart after they started using ‘localism’ in their advertising campaign?” Leung said with a sarcastic smile.
Hongkongers have long regarded politics as turf that their children should not step onto. Leung has been working for a few years in the marketing field, but resigned in May to focus on the upcoming election. “It is simply impossible to stand in an election representing a tiny party with no funding when you have a full time job, we simply don’t have the time,” explained Leung. His fellow party member Yau Wai-ching also resigned to devote herself to the upcoming election.
“A job can be found again, but there may not be another four years for Hong Kong,” said Leung. When asked about whether he’s concerned about his personal safety, Leung said that he has been warned not to go to some Southeast Asian countries as evidenced by the Causeway Bay booksellers’ case, in which one bookseller disappeared in Thailand and taken to China.
Youngspiration advocates a referendum in 2021 with Hong Kong independence as one of the options. “We have no objection to Hong Kong independence, and I personally would like to see that happen one day,” said Baggio Leung.
Hongkongers’ right for self-determination was stripped away by China when the United Nations granted China’s demand to take Hong Kong (and Macau) off the list of colonies. Hong Kong’s right to self-determination forms the core of Youngspiration’s election campaign.
Youngspiration joined hands with a number of district-focused young political groups to work towards regaining this right by standing in the September election. The alliance’s plan, in summary, is to build Hongkongers’ sense of identity and political awareness.
According to their plan, Youngspiration and its allies will leverage the political power and resources of legislators to push for policies that are in line with Hongkongers’ interests, to unite Hongkongers and push forward a self-determination referendum in 2021. The team will start the discussion right after having been successfully elected. “We are running out of time. 2047 is just around the corner and a referendum to determine the future of Hong Kong is crucial. Our right to self-determination was taken away from us during the negotiation between Britain and China in the 70’s and 80’s, and we must not let history repeat itself. Continuing 1-Country-2-Systems, Hong Kong independence and other options will be included in the referendum,” explained Leung. “Our beliefs and plans are based on civic or liberal nationalism. Without a shared identity, a referendum would not be representational. By the time the referendum is complete, the candidates at the Chief Executive election in 2022 will be under significant pressure to either represent Hongkongers or continue to be China’s cronies, the latter will surely trigger the nerves of Hongkongers then as the sense of identity would be strong enough to bring substantial consequences.”
Given the lack of a referendum act in Hong Kong, Younspiration and its alliance are still exploring ways to conduct the referendum, one possible way is electronic voting, but details are yet to be disclosed. “It is feasible with the technology advancement nowadays, though it has to be credible,” said Leung. “Our priority is to dispel people’s misconceptions about Hong Kong. Many people, in or outside of Hong Kong, say that without China, Hong Kong cannot survive, and claim that imports from China is Hong Kong’s lifeline, but they are simply wrong. Rice, for example, is mainly imported from Thailand. Water is another example of China’s propaganda that becomes ‘truth’: the amount of Dongjiang River’s sub-standard water, which Hong Kong buys at an extremely high price based on an unfair deal, and which we pour into the sea every year, is just another example. We want to spend five years to educate and dis-indoctrinate people so that Hongkongers can regain confidence in ourselves and make a well-informed decision at the referendum in 2021.”
Youngspiration and its allies believe that Hong Kong’s history has created a unique polity: Hongkongers, who do not need foreign regimes, including that of China, to approve or endorse their unique identity and god-given right to self-determination. The group’s plan for a referendum will be primarily driven by the elected legislators using their status inside the Legislative Council. “With a decision made by the majority, who are well informed, at the referendum, all legislators and even the government will have to follow. This means Hongkongers will taste, for the first time, what it is like to have full control of our government and our future,” said Leung.
In terms of the details of the referendum, tactics they may use at the Legislative Council chamber to push for policies that are in line with Hongkongers’ interests, and the education campaigns they will launch, Youngspiration declined to reveal them as they do not want the Hong Kong SAR and China governments and their cronies to have time to prepare for any of them.
The Electoral Affairs Commission issued a statement on 14/July saying that all candidates must sign a declaration stating that they will uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR. The move immediately came under suspicion as being intended to stop localists and pro-Hong Kong independence activists from taking part in the upcoming election. In response to the EAC statement, Baggio Leung said, “if the government believes it can deny candidature of pro-independence figures and compromise the rule of law by this kind of bureaucratic PR stunt, think twice. We shall spare no effort to fight for Hongkonger’s political representation.”
Youngspiration‘s members and its allies who have submitted their nomination refused to sign the declaration saying that it is a mean to stop anyone who holds different opinion from standig in the election, which violated the Basic Law and procedural justice.
Below is the list of candidates Youngspiration and its allies drew up for the upcoming election:
New Territories West (3 candidates in 1 ticket)
Henry Wong Pak-yu: Spokesperson of Tin Shui Wai New Force and Community Executive. Wong stood in the 2015 District Council Election in Tin Heng constituency of Yuen Long District.
RHKN Series “Localism: From Street Protests to Council Chamber”: