Hong Kong Indigenous’s (HKI) stunning turnout in the New Territories East By-election, may come as a surprise to most, but for anyone who has been following them this was a victory a long time in the making.

HKI’s first election results give everyone a timely reminder that sometimes politics is not about money, power or influence but about having the right message that represents people’s desires.

Hong Kong Indigenous.
Photo: Hong Kong Indigenous.

In creating a traditional political campaign, HKI was outgunned on every aspect. What they lacked in these areas they made up for by catching the vibe of a large swathe of grassroots voters across multiple generations.

I visited their campaign headquarters a few times before Sunday’s vote.  A nondescript industrial unit, in the back end of nowhere, with a broken toilet and a couple of computers. Every night the place would become energized with scores and scores of volunteers turning up to help out for free and get the campaign moving.

The numbers were so high that people would be working in all the available corridor spaces across the entire floor. The energy of the volunteers was incredibly high, despite the huge hurdles they faced.

Hong Kong Indigenous.
Photo: Hong Kong Indigenous.

Firstly the campaign lacked consistent funding, and you can see that the larger parties outmatched them sometimes by a factor of four in traditional means, like street posters. On top of this, HKI street banners would be regularly targeted for destruction by thugs, and many were taped back together on the street because there was simply no budget to replace them.

The government tried to strike a death blow to the HKI’s political campaign by not allowing their 550,000 campaign leaflets to be delivered by HKPost to voters. However, this spectacularly backfired and was one of the main motivating forces behind hundreds of volunteers.

The government’s restrictions were so harsh that HKI wasn’t even allowed to hand-post letters into letter boxes. The only way they could get their message across was to go to the streets and meet the people, and that’s exactly what they did, and is why they succeeded.

mong kok clashes unrest riot
Mong Kok riots. Photo: HKFP.

After the Lunar New Year violence, the government and its willing media organizations have done everything they can to portray HKI as a criminal organization with no political representation within the community. They have refused to conduct any investigations into the violence, saying that the only investigation Hong Kong needs is a criminal one.

When arresting the convenor of HKI, Ray Wong, the “evidence” paraded by the police was reminiscent of PSB operations over the border, where the main purpose is to character assassinate the defendant.

HKI is not a criminal organization of irrational youths motivated by blind violence, no matter how much government stooges like Michael Chugani or Alex Lo like to portray it as such.

The reality, as proven by Sunday’s vote, is that they are a highly motivated new wave of protesters with a vote, who believe that the only ways of dealing with malign interference in Hong Kong’s affairs are by direct action and confrontation. They are fearless, brave and resourceful. They command the internet and are not confined by accepted paradigms.

Sunday was a great victory for Hong Kongers. We can expect more!

Richard is a freelance writer and long term resident of Hong Kong. He has a Master's Degree in Chinese Studies from CUHK and describes himself as a noisy muser on all things China. He has travelled extensively in Western China and once owned a trekking lodge high on the Tibetan border. He has a raw style of Opinion Journalism, with special interests in the South China Seas and deciphering Hong Kong's Localist/Independence groups.