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Occupy Central

Nathan Law quits as chairman of Demosisto, the Hong Kong localist party he founded with Joshua Wong, after ‘political storms’

Young pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker announces he is stepping aside to ‘think about the road ahead’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 6:48am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 2:39pm

A former opposition lawmaker announced on Wednesday that he had quit his post as chairman of Demosisto, the political party he founded two years ago with his ally Joshua Wong Chi-fung to advocate Hong Kong self-determination.

Pro-democracy activist Nathan Law Kwun-chung, 24, said he had stepped down as he wanted a “respite” from years in the “vortex of political storms” as well as “time to rally [his] forces and think about the road ahead”.

At the same time, Demosisto vice-chairwoman Tiffany Yuen Ka-wai said she had quit the party, citing differences with its new direction.

Wong, the poster boy of the Occupy movement, remains the party’s secretary general. 

I need time to rally my forces and think about the road ahead
Nathan Law

Demosisto was formed in 2016, evolving from the student group Scholarism, of which Wong and Law were core leaders. They and fellow student leader Alex Chow Yong-kang had actively taken part in the 2014 Occupy protests for greater democracy, also known as the umbrella movement.

While the civil disobedience campaign fell apart after 79 days, the trio were charged for their roles in an illegal protest and were sentenced to six to eight months in jail last August.

They were subsequently released on bail after serving a few months behind bars, and the Court of Final Appeal quashed their prison terms in February this year.

That same month, the trio were nominated by a group of US congressmen for the Nobel Peace Prize “in recognition of their peaceful efforts to bring political reform and self-determination to Hong Kong”.

In a post on his Facebook page on Wednesday, Law maintained he was not abandoning his vision or beliefs but wanted to “open up paths that were not explored before”.

“Since the umbrella movement, I have been living in the vortex of the political storm. In face of the stern political situation, I found myself overloaded both physically and mentally. I need time to rally my forces and think about the road ahead.”

Born in 1993, Law immigrated to Hong Kong with his mother from the mainland in 1999 to reunite with his father. During the Occupy protests, he was one of the five student leaders who sat at the negotiating table opposite Hong Kong’s leading officials, led by then chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to discuss the city’s democratisation.

Law was elected to the legislature in the 2016 general election but was disqualified last year by the court over his improper oath-taking at the inaugural meeting of the Legislative Council in October 2016.

Demosisto put forth a candidate, Agnes Chow Ting, to try to retake Law’s seat in the March by-election, but the government banned her from contesting on the grounds that Demosisto advocated Hong Kong self-determination, which was “unconstitutional”.

Despite his resignation, Law remains a standing committee member of the party. Ivan Lam Long-yin will take over as chairman.

In a post on her personal Facebook page, former vice-chairwoman Yuen said: “After rounds of discussions with the party, I understood that Demosisto’s main future work would be adjusted. And there could be differences between the party’s belief and my work.

“So, I think it is time to make a decision, to continue community work in a capacity that is more independent.”

Yuen now works as an assistant to localist lawmaker Au Nok-hin. There is speculation that she plans to stand in the district council elections next year and is leaving the party so she will not run the risk of also being banned from contesting.

Ivan Lam, the new party chairman, insisted that the party remained committed to its cause.

Asked about Demosisto’s plans for the district council polls, Lam said: “Given the worsening situation that even people advocating independence could risk being barred from district council elections, it is too early to say whether we will field candidates or how many we will be fielding.”