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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Getting Demosisto candidates elected in Hong Kong now impossible, say party leaders, as Nathan Law withdraws from frontline politics altogether

New chairman Ivan Lam says party will focus on spreading its message online as atmosphere towards direct action in Hong Kong has changed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2018, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2018, 7:26pm

Pro-democracy party Demosisto will stop putting candidates up for election after former chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung said the current political climate made it impossible to win a seat.

Law, sitting alongside his replacement Ivan Lam Long-yin, made the announcement on a radio programme on Tuesday morning.

The pair said the party would not commit resources to fighting election campaigns and would go in a new direction, while Law plans to take a step back from frontline politics altogether.

“The path was clear in the past,” Law said. “For example, you could run to become a lawmaker. But now, it seems that such things are blocked.”

After being elected two years ago, Law was disqualified from the Legislative Council last year for taking his oath in a way that Beijing later ruled unconstitutional, when the national legislature issued an interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution in November 2016.

Agnes Chow Ting, who represented the party in a bid to take back Law’s seat in the Legco by-election in March, was banned from the contest after a returning officer judged that Demosisto’s desire for self-determination was incompatible with Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

“It’s not that I am uninterested [in being a lawmaker again], but it is impossible,” Law said.

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The 24-year-old, who will remain as a standing committee member of Demosisto, said he planned to take some time off from the “vortex of political storms” to “think about the road ahead”. 

He added this would involve him playing “midfield” instead of being on the front line, and he would focus on finishing his cultural studies degree at Lingnan University this year.

Lam, who now leads the party alongside secretary general Joshua Wong Chi-fung, also ruled out taking a stab at elections himself, noting he had always played a supporting role “behind the scenes”.

But he did not rule out the party fighting an election in the future.

“Legco is still important … we do not rule out the possibility. We might join elections as a way to protest,” he said.

A citywide district council election is scheduled for November next year, and a Legco election is due to take place in 2020.

Lam said the atmosphere in the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong had changed. Instead of taking direct action, he said, more young people were voicing their frustrations online, as social activism appeared to involve high risks and little return.

The new party chairman said Demosisto would focus on reaching out to young people in Hong Kong and have a “regular output” on new media platforms, while seeking to raise awareness of looming issues. These included an upcoming law to criminalise insulting or distorting the national anthem, and reminders from Beijing that Hong Kong must pass national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.