Young Hong Kong activists launch Demosisto political party

Move by Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow expected to ramp up campaign for democracy

Joshua Wong, who at 19 years of age is not eligible to vote in Hong Kong’s limited elections for another two years, was the public face of the Occupy Central movement. Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Wong, who at 19 years of age is not eligible to vote in Hong Kong’s limited elections for another two years, was the public face of the Occupy Central movement. Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images

 

With a powerful image of co-founder Agnes Chow as Katniss Everdeen above the caption “Younger Games”, Hong Kong’s teenage democracy activists have announced a new political party, Demosisto, amid growing anxiety about Beijing’s interference in the territory.

Ms Chow and Joshua Wong, the teenage Hong Kong student activist leader who came to global prominence during the 2014 Hong Kong democracy protests with their Scholarism movement, will launch Demosisto on Sunday.

There is widespread disillusionment in Hong Kong right now about the political situation, and a feeling that the events of Occupy Central in late 2014 have not been resolved.

Under the Basic Law introduced when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, the territory is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy, but the apparent rendition of several booksellers with anti-mainland views by Chinese security agents has angered many people and engendered fear.

While the young leaders have not yet outlined the agenda of the party, it is expected to continue to press Scholarism’s campaign for democracy, including a referendum to decide on Hong Kong’s future after 2047, when the “one country, two systems” agreement, installed in 1997, expires.

Despite their youth, Demosisto could push the young activists forward as a real force to stand beside the old-school democrats who have dominated Hong Kong’s political life for decades.

However, some analysts fear their views may be too extreme, and there could be a split in the pro-democracy vote.

Mr Wong, who at 19 years of age is not eligible to vote in Hong Kong’s limited elections for another two years, became the public face of the Occupy Central movement, when millions blocked the streets for weeks in 2014, demanding direct elections of the city’s chief executive.

‘Stand for democracy’

There have been some criticisms of the name online as “it is difficult for common people to pronounce”.

As well as Ms Chow, Mr Wong will be joined by other comrades from the Occupy movement, Nathan Law and Oscar Lai.

The Occupy Hong Kong protests lasted for 79 days and brought Hong Kong’s business district to a standstill, but failed to win any concessions from the Hong Kong or mainland Chinese governments.

Mr Wong founded Scholarism when he was at secondary school in 2012, and it was instrumental in a campaign in Hong Kong to have a pro-Beijing national education curriculum shelved.

The arrest of Mr Wong in 2014, along with two other activists, triggered a major change in the protests, with thousands taking to the streets to demand electoral reform.

Separately, the case against key leaders of the group involved in Chinese New Year riots in Mong Kok, which included Derek Lam of Scholarism, was dropped because of lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, in a visit to the former crown colony, British foreign secretary Philip Hammond warned over threats to Hong Kong’s autonomy during the first visit by a British foreign secretary for five years.

“Although the one country, two systems model is generally working well in Hong Kong, concerns have been raised over the recent booksellers’ case,” he said.

“Rule of law is the cornerstone of an open and fair society. Hong Kong’s success is underpinned by its independent judiciary and respect for rights and freedoms,” he added.

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