Hong Kong student activists establish new party

From left: Demosisto's deputy secretary general Agnes Chow secretary general Joshua Wong and executive committee member Shu Kei pose with the party logo.
From left: Demosisto's deputy secretary general Agnes Chow secretary general Joshua Wong and executive committee member Shu Kei pose with the party logo. PHOTO: EPA

The young student activists of the 2014 Occupy protest movement, led by 19-year-old Joshua Wong, have established a new political party called Demosisto.

While it stops short of calling for independence, this will be one of the options for Hong Kongers to consider, under a "self-determination referendum" that the party wants to hold in a decade.

"We will not refuse any discussions," said Ms Agnes Chow, 19, a former spokesman of student activist group Scholarism and now deputy secretary-general of Demosisto.

When asked if she considers herself a Chinese, she said she sees herself as an "ethnic Chinese", whose ties to China predate the setting up of the People's Republic of China.

Demosisto was launched last night at an arts theatre in Wan Chai, not far from the Admiralty protest site where two years ago the students helped to galvanise hundreds of thousands for a sit-in to agitate for greater electoral freedom.

Pro-democracy politicians and celebrities such as singer Anthony Wong attended the launch.

Demosisto is an amalgam of the Greek word for "people" and the Latin word for "to stand".

Mr Joshua Wong, its secretary- general, told The Straits Times last night that its focus will be to suss out what the people want for Hong Kong after 2047. That is when Beijing's promise of "no change for 50 years" under the "one country, two systems" policy lapses.

"Atrocities" like the recent disappearance of Hong Kongers within the city borders indicate that Hong Kong is on the path of "one country, one system", said the party.

Mr Wong, founder of Scholarism, became the face of Occupy after leading other students in a charge to occupy the government headquarters. It kick-started the 79-day protest movement.

But the new party, which advocates non-violence, faces challenges - not least from the radical localist movement that scoffs at Demosisto for not advocating independence outright. It is also not part of a coalition formed by six other post-Occupy groups that are fielding their own candidates for the legislative council polls in September.

Another challenge will be in reaching out to older Hong Kongers. Film critic Shu Kei, 60, was unveiled as a core party member last night and he said he would "like to show that the different generations can work together".

The party is considering three candidates to field in two districts in the polls. While Scholarism's two most well-known faces - Mr Wong and Ms Chow - will be too young to run for elections, they are helping their party members gear up.

Ms Chow said: "In the past, we focused mainly on matters students cared about. Now, we need to research everything from environmental to housing issues."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'HK student activists establish new party'. Print Edition | Subscribe