POLITICS

'I want to wake up Hongkongers': 'Long Hair' talks of his fight for the man on the street

From throwing bananas to releasing balloons in Legco meetings, the maverick lawmaker prefers to be called an activist or revolutionary

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 11:36am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 November, 2014, 1:35pm

When Long Hair Leung Kwok-hung mischievously returned home from a long-awaited lawmakers’ trip to Shanghai before even having a chance to discuss electoral reform with state officials, no one was particularly surprised.

His decision to turn back at Shanghai airport rather than surrender banned items relating to Tiananmen Square left fellow pan-democrats in a tight spot.

But for Long Hair it was the latest in a line of stunts he has employed throughout his political life designed to help “wake up Hong kong people”.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post ahead of his trip, the Chairman of the League of Social Democrats said although he had been a "legislator" since 2004, he prefers the term “activist” or “revolutionary".

In a series of short video interviews he reveals how he just wants to stand up for the man on the street, and explains why he believes his fiery brand of politics is the best way to do so.

“You could say I don’t have a career like other people… my horizons are different,” 58-year-old Leung, told the South China Morning Post ahead of the trip to Shanghai.

“Career is not the right word for a person who wants to dedicate himself to a certain cause. Career is very low-level.

The Post's exclusive profile of "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung:

Video: "Long Hair": Legco is an arena you are there to kill the bull

"The problem of parliamentary democracy is that a lot of members of parliament see politics as their career and they believe their careers are more important than the people on the street," said Leung, who was once a bus cleaner working the night shift before entering Legco.

A child from a single-parent family, his revolutionary ardour was first inspired by the 1966 riots. He was barely 10 when social unrest reached boiling point in the streets of Kowloon that spring and awakened his sense of justice. That spirit was fully formed on June 4, 1989.

"I lived in a time of change and the changes were coming. I wanted to be a person who was dedicated to the betterment of Chinese people at that time."

It was when he started hurling bananas and releasing balloons during Legco meetings to express his discontent with the government that "Long Hair" became a household name.

Video: "Long Hair": Lonely child in a time of change

"I will try my best to attack the establishment and the government. I will use any means I can to help wake up Hong Kong people," he said.

"The inequality in Hong Kong is so significant and Legco is a part of that. The people who point their fingers at me … have been [in Legco] for too long and they have become tame."

Leung doesn't hide his disappointment with more moderate pan-democrat legislators. "They are the so-called pan-democrats - but what have they done?" he asked, referring to the growing rift within the camp over political reform. "Just like in the arena, you are not there to do business; you are there to kill the bull."

While radicals, including Leung, demand an electoral model that allows the public to put forward chief executive candidates for the 2017 polls, some moderates propose a compromise with Beijing.

Video: "Long Hair": Having a golden heart

"Now the pan-democrats are in crisis. They can't lead the fight to achieve universal suffrage. I think it's time for them to change their thinking. Pan-democrats need always to bear in mind they have a duty and they have a cause … there should be equal rights for everyone in Hong Kong."

Leung is hardly a lone voice; he secured the most votes in the New Territories East constituency - 48,295 - in the 2012 Legco election. "I am a very down-to-earth person. My [goal] is to fight for the benefits of the ordinary people [and those] on the street."

Long Hair, who says he's too old to run for another term in Legco, says he just wants to be a "small potato" - albeit with a heart of gold, like his idol, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, whose image often features on Leung's T-shirts. "[Che] is a figure who inspired poems with his sacrifices … he gave people courage to listen to themselves, and understand."

Video: "Long Hair": No change in Hong Kong if China doesn't change

 

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