Hong Kong's youngest legislator faces being kicked out of office
Government succeeded last month in ejecting two pro-indendence lawmakers
One of the leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement has vowed to take to the streets again if the Hong Kong government succeeds in unseating him and three other pro-democracy lawmakers.
A lawsuit was filed Friday by government lawyers seeking to disqualify Nathan Law and three others, days after a court upheld the barring of two of their colleagues.
“It’s not just about my seat,” Law told CNN. “It’s about whether those people who voted for me are willing to resist, are wiling to come out on the street and protest.”
The 23-year-old easily won his seat during September’s parliamentary election, becoming the city’s youngest ever lawmaker.
During the 2014 protests, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets to campaign for free elections to choose the city’s leader.
While the Umbrella Movement succeeded in shutting down parts of the city for weeks, and attracted global attention, it failed to secure any meaningful political reforms.
Law, along with Joshua Wong and others, was one of the student leaders of the movement, even taking on government officials in a televised debate.
He and Wong went on to form the Demosisto party, to campaign for reform and self-determination for the city.
Those calls have been drowned out somewhat by more radical politicians arguing for full independence from China, including Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching, who were expelled from LegCo last month after a court ruled their oaths of office, in which they cursed and displayed a banner reading “Hong Kong is not China,” were invalid.
The ruling against them came after the dramatic intervention of Beijing, which employed a rarely-used power to re-interpret Hong Kong’s Constitution and rule that oaths must be taken “sincerely and solemnly.”
Beijing has conflated self-determination and independence, but Law argued that the pair are distinct.
“I’m not changing what I’m upholding,” he said. “It is important to realize that (self-determination) is a basic right for Hong Kong people.”
He pointed out that in 1997, when Beijing assumed power over Hong Kong from the UK, it promised the city democracy.
“It is very important to tell Hong Kong people, to tell the world that Chinese government is (a) government that they will do what they have promised,” Law said.
Asked if he was worried people would feel disillusioned at seeing the candidates they elected kicked out of office, Law said he is “not afraid at all.”
“(This is) an opportunity for people to show their sentiment and support for the legislators to fight back and protest on the street,” he said.
Others were less confident. “I’m not so sure if there will be a strong showing of people taking to the streets,” said Jason Ng, a lawyer and author of “Umbrellas in Bloom: Hong Kong’s occupy movement uncovered.”
“Public opinion leans very heavily against Yau and Leung, there’s a danger that people lump Law and the other three with (them).”
Many people, he said, “are simply protest-fatigued and election-fatigued.”
US-Hong Kong factor
Last month, US Senator Marco Rubio announced a bill aimed at buttressing Hong Kong autonomy in the face of Chinese encroachment.
Rubio, who is co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said in a statement that the bill “would renew the United States’ historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault.”
That announcement came after a meeting between Rubio and Wong, who said that the Cuban-American Senator had encouraged him not to retreat in the face of a communist regime.
Rubio’s bill was co-sponsored by Senator Tom Cotton, an ally of President-elect Donald Trump.
Last week, Trump had a controversial phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, upending decades of diplomatic protocol. On Sunday, Trump seemed to double down on Twitter, accusing Beijing of keeping its currency artificially low and of military posturing in the South China Sea.
Asked if he hoped Trump would be more vocal in supporting Hong Kong against China as well, Law said that “we need Hong Kong people to stand up for themselves.”
“But monitoring from the international community is also important,” he said. “We need allies to … ensure that Hong Kong has a free environment that respects democracy and universal suffrage.”
CNN’s Vivian Kam contributed reporting.