Youngspiration channels their political force into district elections

Youngspiration channels their political force into district elections

Meet the young guns hoping to capitalise on students' political awakening in November polls

youngspiration07.artg9uhf46a.1ypo0507covscmp01may15nsyoung3ftpl0364a49896905.jpg

Youngspiration's Steven Wong (left) and Donald Chow are taking the fight to the future.
Youngspiration's Steven Wong (left) and Donald Chow are taking the fight to the future.
Photo: Frankie Tsang/SCMP

Donald Chow Sai-kit is a 23-year-old student at Chu Hai College, and he is thinking about taking part in the district council elections in November. If he succeeds, he will be the second youngest person to become a district councilor, after Andrew Chiu Ka-yin who was elected in 2007 at the age of 22.

Since last year's Occupy Central protests, young people are taking an increasing interest in local politics.

Chow's interest, though, pre-dates Occupy. He was on the stage at a July 1 protest a few years ago, when people were just objecting to the proposal of national education as a school subject. Opponents described the idea as brainwashing.

"There was an elderly lady who waved at me and asked me to come down from the stage. She said, 'You young people have to take care.' Her hands trembled as she reached into her bag and took out HK$20 as a donation. She said, 'I came out here from Tai Po just to support you. My children and grandchildren are all counting on you.'

"I felt a sense of responsibility. This was when I was in secondary school. That has stayed with me to this day."

Secondary school teacher Steven Wong Ka-chun, 28, works with Chow. They're both community organisers for Youngspiration, a new political party formed by young people after the Umbrella movement. After Wong leaves his school in Kwun Tong at 6pm or 7pm, he spends his time talking to residents, and helps some of them get legal aid or social welfare.

"Before the Umbrella movement and the national education protests, we were classic Hongkongers, and didn't care much about politics," Wong says. "But then came national education and political reform. We realised how much of an impact this would have on future generations."

He says those developments, as well as doing liberal studies at school, have made young people more aware of current affairs.

Pro-Beijing politicians have blamed liberal studies for inciting students to join Occupy, and education officials have proposed changes to the syllabus.

Activist Edward Lau Wai-tak says he would like to channel the enthusiasm shown in the Umbrella movement. The 29-year-old helped to defend the Occupy camp in Admiralty last year, and he stopped working full-time this year to start a political group called Ignite Your Belief. They want to raise money and campaign for candidates in the November district elections who support the push for what pan-democrats call true universal suffrage.

Lau says this is a significant time for young Hongkongers. "This is a marked turning point in Hong Kong."

Lau went to university in Britain, and afterwards set up his own outdoor education business. He spent a lot of time travelling and working on the mainland. That what inspired him to become involved in Hong Kong politics. He travelled across the mainland in 2006 and 2007, seeing how people in Guizhou, Guangxi, and other mountainous regions were mired in poverty.

"You would go to these villages where you would see people in desperate conditions. Yet those were the people who were the nicest, those were the people who would invite you to their home," he says.

"People who have nothing are willing to give you everything. It is time to bring that kind of spirit back to Hong Kong. I felt that sense of solidarity on September 28 [2014] which I'd never felt before in Hong Kong."

Wong says it will be challenging to go up against established political parties. But, after all the evenings he has spent out on the streets, a lot of the people who come up to him want change.

"Someone came up to us and demanded to know if we were part of the [pro-government party] DAB. I explained that we were a new party - I was struck by how angry they were at the pro-government parties," he said.

"We may not win, but hopefully we can bring about change and make more people aware of what's going on around them."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
District elections FTW!

Comments

To post comments please
register or