Demosisto, a new political party launched on Sunday night by student activists who co-led the Occupy movement in 2014, has promised to advocate for self-determination in Hong Kong. Its members plan to field two lists of candidates in September’s Legislative Council elections.
Self-determination is the principle that a nation is free to choose its leaders.
The group plans to hold a referendum within 10 years to decide Hong Kong’s future after 2047, when the “one country, two systems” principle expires and the city will no longer be autonomous.
At the party’s launch, Chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung said he didn’t think independence was currently feasible for the city, although it would be one of the options in the referendum. “We don’t see ourselves as localists,” said the former leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. “It’s hard to separate ourselves from the China factor, but we need to work to preserve our own culture.”
One of the group’s main focuses will be on education, such as advocating for Hong Kong history to be taught as an individual subject.
Demosisto’s launch coincided with the formation of a coalition of six post-Occupy groups, led by Youngspiration. The alliance – comprising Youngspiration, Kowloon East Community, Tin Shui Wai New Force, Cheung Sha Wan Community Establishment Power, Tsz Wan Shan Constructive Power, and Tuen Mun Community – hopes to hold a referendum on Hong Kong’s future in five years, and have pledged to field four lists of candidates in all geographical constituencies except New Territories East, where Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous is tipped to run after he won 16 per cent of the vote in the February by-election there.
Law is considering running for the Hong Kong Island constituency in the upcoming legco polls, alongside film director and party colleague Shu Kei; while vice-chairperson Oscar Lai Man-lok, ex-spokesperson of the now-suspended Scholarism group, is eyeing a seat in Kowloon East. Law said the party was open to coordinating with other pro-democracy groups in the elections.
“We didn’t pick where to run based on numerical analyses of our chances to win,” said Lai. “We chose places we really cared about. I want to stop Kowloon East from becoming a commercial hub, and preserve the area’s history.”
Law said Hong Kong Island is generally considered a conservative election zone, and hopes the addition of his voice would help change people’s mindsets.
Former Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung, the party’s Secretary General, said they would put considerable effort into lobbying international communities to recognise Hong Kong’s right to self-determination. He and Law are scheduled to hold a series of talks in American and Canadian universities this month. In May, the party will announce a roadmap detailing their short-, middle- and long-term plans.
Demosisto is branding itself as a “movement-based party” with a strategy that pushes for change from the bottom up. One of their plans is to set up a petition platform, where the public can submit their opinions and ideas. They will also crowdfund on their website, with the goal of raising HK$2 million to cover monthly operational costs of about HK$170,000, as well as campaign costs.
The group is also accepting donations through a Hang Seng bank account opened under Deputy Secretary Agnes Chow Ting’s name. Earlier, Chow and Wong had attempted to open a joint-name account at HSBC, but were rejected for administrative and commercial reasons. The party is still in the process of applying to become a limited company, after which it can apply for a bank account in its name. “My own money is kept in a separate bank account, so there’s no worrying that it will get mixed with the party’s money,” said Chow.