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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Despite Legco ouster, Hong Kong politician ‘Long Hair’ Leung keeps faith in city’s social activism

Radical pan-democrat cites a stronger awareness of environmental issues, the clout of developers, and the nature of small-circle elections

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 September, 2017, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 September, 2017, 6:37pm

Former Hong Kong lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung was unseated from the Legislative Council in July over an improper oath but the radical pro-democracy activist and long-time advocate of social equality says he feels vindicated in recent years.

“When I called on people to besiege the Legislative Council years ago, they asked if I was crazy,” Leung recalled.

“Look at the anti-express rail link movement [of 2009] and the protests thereafter, such as Occupy,” he said. “They’ve taken us so far.”

These remained Leung’s prevailing sentiments months after he walked out of Hong Kong’s legislature, which he had served for 13 years. He was one of four legislators disqualified on July 14 for their oath antics in Legco last year.

In a four-part series in which the Post speaks to the ousted lawmakers, Leung said he was still upbeat about Hong Kong’s future.

Affectionately known as “Long Hair” for his signature locks, Leung was elected a lawmaker in 2004. Soon he stirred up a body in which more divisive tactics have become the norm.

Leung was successfully returned to Legco at every opportunity, including last year, but his term was abruptly cut short in July after a court ruled he had improperly taken his oath.

Oath-taking antics: The acts that got six Hong Kong lawmakers disqualified

The matter, Leung told the Post, caught the pan-democrats “off guard ... as the court case had hung in the air for quite some time”.

“I am not blaming anyone, but I think the opinion leaders in Hong Kong could have done more to tell members of the public about the severity of the case.”

The most powerful force is not inside the Legco but has always been civil society
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has struggled since the Occupy movement of 2014, reflected in declining turnout for protests amid a sense of helplessness.

Leung in retrospect believed his camp should have tried harder to bring hope to city residents, many having concluded their actions were in vain.

The Legco disqualification also dealt a blow to Leung’s party, the League of Social Democrats, as his ouster meant a significant loss of funding.

After becoming a lawmaker, Leung, a public housing tenant, started donating more than half his monthly salary to a fund to support protesters and the league.

Since losing his seat, league members have been forced to take pay cuts amounting to HK$10,000 per month.

But Leung remained optimistic about the city’s future, expressing considerable confidence in the sway of ordinary people.

“The most powerful force is not inside the Legco but has always been civil society.”

‘All Hong Kong lawmakers should retake oaths’: litigious former civil servant files legal bid to restart process

“Our community – despite the frustration – has changed a lot compared with 13 years ago. We have a much stronger awareness of environmental protection issues, the clout of developers, and the nature of small-circle elections,” he said, referring to how the chief executive is selected not by all local voters but a pre-approved group of electors.

Leung also claimed Hongkongers had mounted “stronger resistance” to the government than before.

“Even China, a superpower in the world, has failed to eliminate us,” he added. “What should we fear?”