HONG KONG: As Hong Kong marks the second anniversary of the pro-democracy Umbrella Revolution, former protesters prepare to take office for the first time when the city’s Legislative Council (Legco) begins its new term Saturday.
At least five of the new legislators are openly pushing for the semi-autonomous city to have the choice to split from Beijing, as fears grow China is tightening its grip on the former British colony.
Among the leading rebels in the pro-democracy camp are Nathan Law, Eddie Chu and Yau Wai-ching.
Law, 23, was born in mainland China to a working class family and moved to Hong Kong at the age of six. He is Hong Kong’s youngest ever lawmaker. He calls for self-determination for Hong Kong.
Law became known as a student leader during the pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement” protests of 2014, alongside his friend and teenage political ally Joshua Wong.Since then he and Wong have set up a new party called Demosisto, campaigning for Hong Kongers to have a choice over how they are governed, including the option of independence.
Eddie Chu, 38, was born in Hong Kong and is best known as an environmentalist who protested against the destruction of heritage properties and residents’ homes to make way for development. Educated in a Catholic school before going to university to study English, he stands for self-determination for Hong Kong, including the chance to choose independence. He won 80,000 votes in the Legco elections, the most of any candidate in any directly elected constituency.
But he has also paid a price, unable to return home with his wife and four-year-old child after receiving death threats. The family is now living under police protection.
“If we stay silent and step back Hong Kong will become worse,” he said.
Yau Wai-ching, 25, is one of the most strident pro-independence legislators, backing a split from China as a viable option for the city.
It was mass protests over the introduction of Chinese patriotism classes into schools that first sparked her interest in politics. Hundreds of thousands rallied against the move, which the government was forced to scrap.
“I felt that ‘brainwashing’ education was not far off and that it could happen in Hong Kong,” Yau said.
The daughter of two retired civil servants, Yau was born and raised in Hong Kong. “Independence is definitely one option,” she says. “It would allow us to think about how to change the current unsatisfactory situation, which includes livelihood issues that haven’t been resolved or white elephant projects that the government has forcefully pushed through.”