Q&A with Hong Kong’s youngest legislator Nathan Law

Nathan Law Kwun-chung, a 23-year-old pro-independence candidate has just been elected to Hong Kong’s legislature.

Vote counting underway in Hong Kong elections
Pro-independence politician Nathan Law [EPA]

Nearly two years ago, young students boycotted classes and began a mass civil disobedience movement in downtown Hong Kong to protest against a controversial electoral reform bill.

For 79 days, thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the streets blocking roads and shutting down key areas of one of the world’s major financial centres.

Protesters were beaten, pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed by police during what is known as Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, named after the way demonstrators used umbrellas to protect themselves from police pepper spray.

The pro-democracy movement fizzled after the Hong Kong government and China refused to allow any real concessions for a full election in 2017.

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Nathan Law Kwun-chung, 23, was one of the student leaders of the Umbrella Revolution and a key figure in the 2014 pro-democracy movement.

In April, he founded the Demosisto party with another prominent former protest leader Joshua Wong.

His party is calling for independence from China and a referendum on Hong Kong’s sovereignty in 2047.

On Monday, in the first major, city-wide, legislative council election since the Umbrella Movement, several young, pro-independence candidates were elected.

Law was one of them.

Al Jazeera spoke to Law who has become the youngest legislator in Hong Kong’s history.

Al Jazeera: Tell us about your campaign and why you think you won?

Law: I believe the people of Hong Kong were looking for a new voice in the electoral system who can uphold the different voices of the democratic movement. I think the elections reflect that.

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Al Jazeera: You are Hong Kong’s youngest politician. Do you think you have the experience to carry that voice?

Law: For the past few months and few weeks during the campaigning I have performed well and have proved myself to those who were questioning my abilities. I have convinced them of what I can do.

Age is a factor that is not affecting my performance.

For the past two years, I have been fighting against the Communist Party as part of the Umbrella Movement. I was the core organiser of that protest. I will be one of the few in the legislative council with that kind of experience in terms of that framework. I am perfect for that.

Al Jazeera: What will be your agenda?

Law: The problem with the Hong Kong situation … it is completely different to talk about it in daily life or during campaigning and putting it on the agenda. Talking about Hong Kong’s self-determination is one of the main things I want to talk about and that will be at the core of my job.

Al Jazeera: How are you going to be different from others? What can you bring to your constituency and the people?

Law: For the past two years I have been involved in the citizen’s movement. I am keen on continuing that. I would sacrifice myself to make my target happen. It is with that experience that I would bring changes to the system. I think … during this election, because of our movement, people came to us and supported us, and that influence will continue in the future.

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Al Jazeera: What does the road ahead for you and your party hold?

Law: We need time to digest and assess first and see how we can bring changes and push for the self-determination movement. How can we arouse public debate and discussion?

Al Jazeera: Is this a fantasy?

Law: No, we have to accumulate our power. It is not difficult to understand what we want. There is always hope. People need to realise the desire for Hong Kong’s residents to decide their own future.

Al Jazeera: Will you be pushing for change in the current electoral system, and how?

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Law: Definitely, we want electoral change in our system. That is the basis of democracy. We want to change that and we should do it together.

Al Jazeera: What kind of message do you think these elections have sent to Beijing?

Law: I think Beijing is worried about what happened today, that we have a new voice of resistance. They are worried about that.

Al Jazeera: How will you unite the fractured democratic camp?

Law: I know there is a lot of fragmentation in the camp but I believe as individuals we need to search for cooperation. That is what I want to do.

We recognise that there have been ups and downs in the movement. We understood that we need to have representation in the electoral system. We need to have steady political influence on the society. That is why we needed to involve ourselves in politics.

Source: Al Jazeera