'Radicals' finding a place in political establishment
Some might dismiss them as a bunch of radicals lurking at the fringes of Hong Kong politics, but for Wong Yuk-man, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, his group is taking an increasingly important role in the political establishment.
But as the group's first anniversary approaches, tough questions - such as contesting the looming Legislative Council by-election and how to more efficiently reach out to the public - have yet to be addressed.
'We have never thought about becoming the mainstream,' said Mr Wong. 'But one year on, we have become a force that cannot be ignored.'
Mr Wong, a former host of a popular radio talk show who is now the proprietor of an equally popular noodle shop in Mong Kok, founded the socialist group.
When he and like-minded radicals such as legislators 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, Albert Chan Wai-yip and others saw how mainstream political parties seemed to have lost direction after the defeat of the government's constitutional reform proposal, they believed the city needed a 'true opposition party'. If they were surprised that more than 200 signed up as members when the league was launched, they have more reason to congratulate themselves now. Party ranks have surged past the 500 mark.
'What the league wants to do is look further ahead. In 10 or 20 years' time, we have to have someone to balance the evils of a capitalist society - who will fight for minimum wage, higher taxation and welfare?
Similar to many left-wing parties overseas, Mr Wong's group sought to push its cause primarily through street protests by the masses. But also like many overseas groups, it became a magnet for middle-class professionals and intellectuals.
Among prominent members are doctor and former legislator Lo Wing-lok, and several lawyers, engineers and others who believed pan-democrat parties such as the Democratic Party and the Civic Party could not represent grass-roots interests.
With its plan to field at least one candidate in each of the five geographical constituencies in next year's Legco election, there is a chance the league could expand its influence in the legislature.
Whether and how to take part in the Legco by-election is an issue Mr Wong himself is pondering.
'If I do, of course I can kick out Regina Ip [Lau Suk-yee], but that would seriously affect my efforts to help our candidates' campaign for the district council,' he said. He would make a final decision only after Mrs Ip has announced her candidacy.