Legislative Council elections 2016
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Nathan Law at the counting station at the AsiaWorld-Expo on Monday. Photo: Felix Wong

‘It’s a miracle’: ex-student leader Nathan Law celebrates new status as Hong Kong’s youngest ever lawmaker

Occupy agitator elected on a promise to work for the city’s ‘self-determination’

From student leader to legislator, Nathan Law Kwun-chung transformed himself into one of the most popular Legislative Council candidates this year – and the youngest ever elected.

That title was previously held by veteran Democrat James To Kun-sun when he was elected in 1991 at the more advanced age of 28.

The 50,818 votes that swept Law into a legislative seat on Hong Kong Island reflected “support as well as trust” he said on Monday as he celebrated the first electoral victory of a student leader of the 2014 Occupy protests.

The [large number of] votes will remind me to do better and not to let people down in the next four years
Nathan Law Kwun-chung

“It can be described as a miracle that I won,” Law, 23, said. “It was out of my imagination that I won with more than 50,000 votes. The [large number of] votes will remind me to do better and not to let people down in the next four years.”

Law, who now heads the new Demosisto political party, became secretary-general of the Federation of Students following the 79-day pro-democracy movement in the city two years ago. He was one of five student leaders back then who sat at the negotiating table opposite Hong Kong’s leading officials, led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

The reserved and soft-spoken student leader told the Post in June he had never thought of entering politics when he was younger, as he considered it “a dirty game with people fighting among one another for self-interest”.

In April, Law and others founded Demosisto, with Joshua Wong Chi-fung who led the now-disbanded student group, Scholarism.

They pledged to work for the city’s “self-determination”. In its manifesto, the party stated it would hold a referendum in 10 years to let Hongkongers decide their own fate beyond 2047, when the principle of “one country, two systems” officially expires, and would adopt non-violent protest tactics.

This approach varied from their more radical counterparts’ outright call for independence, an

approach that saw some Legco aspirants stripped of their candidacy.

With a seat in the legislature now, Law is poised to promote his agenda of self-determination.

Born in 1993, Law immigrated to Hong Kong with his mother from the mainland in 1999 to reunite with his father. An avid video gamer, Law became an e-sports commentator in 2012 and used to host a live online gaming show.

In August, Law was given 120 hours of community service for storming the government headquarters in a radical protest that sparked the occupation of roads two days later. Eastern Court magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan said she decided on a relatively light sentence considering the motives behind the offence, which she found to involve genuinely held political ideals or concerns for society.

Law applied for a judicial review that same month against the police decision to set up security zones in Hong Kong during state leader Zhang Dejiang’s three-day visit in May. In a writ filed at the High Court, Law said the decision was unconstitutional on the grounds that the measures were a “disproportionate restriction” to his constitutional rights to expression, peaceful assembly and demonstration.

On May 15, police announced a series of security measures and described them as a “counterterrorism operation”, two days before Zhang, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, visited the city.

Law, together with a few demonstrators, were allegedly subdued by at least 10 policemen when they tried to make their way to the front of water barriers placed on a road in Wan Chai where Zhang’s motorcade passed by on the first day of his trip.

Law argued that there was no evidence he had anything to do with terrorism.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: From activist to the youngest lawmaker