Joshua Wong distinguishes himself from radical localists

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Demosistō is still for non-violent civil disobedience, according to Joshua Wong. The party backs self-determination for Hong Kong, but will not forget about human rights in China.

The fast changing post-Umbrella politics in Hong Kong might be confusing to some. The political platform of Demosistō, a new party led by former student activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung (黃之鋒) and Nathan Law Kwun-chung (羅冠聰), is often deemed ambiguous. Yesterday (27 June) at a luncheon organised by Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong, Wong finally came out to clarify his position.

Wong: We aren’t localists!

The number of Tiananmen candlelight vigil participants dropped this year as localists boycotted the event to show their disappointment at the pan-democrats’ pan-Chinese idealism. Unlike many others in his generation, Joshua Wong attended the vigil.

At the luncheon, Wong emphasised Demosistō’s support in human rights movements in China, contrary to many localist groups. “We fight for self-determination [of Hong Kong], but we won’t forget about human rights in China,” Wong claimed.

In response to criticism on the effectiveness of non-violent civil disobedience, Wong pointed out that violence might not work any better.

“People employed violence as in throwing bricks during the Fishball Revolution [Mong Kok riots on Lunar New Year’s night], but they achieved nothing. The chief executive is going to be elected by 1200-member election committee still,” Wong argued. “It is not about being radical or not, or whether you are pan-democrat or localist, we just don’t have enough bargaining power to bring the Chinese government under pressure. So we Demosistō decided to advocate for self-determination to in order to bring people together in a consensus.”

Self-determination as consensus

Self-determination has become the keyword for localist or pro-independence groups concerning post-2047 Hong Kong. A Youngspiration-led coalition has proposed a referendum in 2021 in which Hong Kong independence might be listed as an option. More ideologically radical groups like Hong Kong Indigenous and Hong Kong National Party have declared support for secession.

Meanwhile, Demosistō proposed to start a deliberation process for Hong Kong’s future by 2030 the latest. “In light of the difficulties currently faced by the opposition, we put forward the self-determination movement in hope of provoking Hong Kong people to examine the Hong Kong political system and decide on their future post-2047,” Demosistō chairperson Nathan Law said. He also believes that another non-violent civil disobedience movement would come soon.

Demosistō earlier announced on its official website that they had raised HK$395,200, 20% of their target. Law added at the luncheon that the 20% referred only to the online donations, the party actually received around HK$900,000 to HK$1 million in total. “But there is still a long way to go. We will seek for more funding during the 1 July demonstration,” Law stated. “So far, we have been avoiding huge donations from a single source.”

Wong’s judicial review application to lower the age threshold for candidacy from 21 to 18 has been rejected by the High Court. This means that Nathan Law and Oscar Lai Man-lok (黎汶洛) might be the only Demosistō members to stand in September’s election.