The leader of a localist group which participated in the Mong Kok protests this week has given a “final message” online calling Hong Kong people to continue protesting and make a difference.

Following the violent clashes between police and protesters in Mong Kok on Monday night, 64 people have been arrested, including members of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, at least one of whom has been charged with rioting. The unrest broke out over the government’s clearing of street hawkers during the Lunar New Year break.

The group’s convenor Ray Wong Toi-yeung, though not arrested, posted a recording online saying that he was unsure what will happen to him, and it may be a “final message” from him. Three hours after the message was posted, Hong Kong Indigenous posted on its Facebook page that many police officers had gathered around the flat and building where Wong resides.

Ray Wong facing the police at the Mong Kok protest.
Ray Wong (on mic) facing the police at the Mong Kok protest. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

In the message, Wong described himself as a “young person born and raised locally,” saying that he loved and treasured Hong Kong.

“But as I slowly grow up, I see this Hong Kong – that should belong to Hong Kong people – has slowly changed beyond recognition,” he said.

Post-Occupy localism

He said that he had joined many different protests in the past, but felt disappointed as they have all failed to succeed. But the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014 changed his mind as many Hong Kong people did not fear the guns held by riot police or tear gas canisters. He started Hong Kong Indigenous after the protests ended.

The group started by calling for anti-parallel trading protests in Tuen Mun on February 8 last year. It also gathered in Mong Kok during the Lunar New Year holidays last year from February 19 to ensure street hawkers could open for business, rather than being cleared out by government hawkers control officers.

Ray Wong speaking at the Mong Kok protest.
Ray Wong speaking at the Mong Kok protest. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

‘Hong Kong could change’

On February 8 this year, the group again called upon the public to support street hawkers during the Lunar New Year break, as Wong said they believed changes in society could be made if they held on to their values.

“In 2016 we will face harsher problems, more issues that we need to protest on the streets,” he said. “But I hope Hong Kong people can persevere – believe that your power can bring changes, and Hong Kong could change.”

Wong concluded by quoting a Chinese saying: “Rather be a shattered vessel of jade than an unbroken piece of pottery.”

One notable arrestee of the group was Edward Leung Tin-kei, a University of Hong Kong student and a member of Hong Kong Indigenous, who was arrested on the frontlines when the clashes began on Monday night. He is also running as a candidate in the Legislative Council by-election at the end of this month.

While localist groups support democracy, they are better known for their anti-communist stance and close association with movements promoting the expansion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and independence.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.