Nathan Law, a student leader of Hong Kong’s mass ‘Umbrella Revolution’ democracy rallies two years ago, is now at the forefront of a new guard of young lawmakers pushing for autonomy from China.
In the biggest polls since the 2014 protests made Law a household name in Hong Kong, the 23-year-old entered the legislature with a convincing victory, gaining more than 50,000 votes.
He becomes the youngest lawmaker in the Legislative Council (LegCo).
Law was representing new party Demosisto — which he founded with fellow Umbrella Movement leader Joshua Wong — calling for Hong Kong people to have the right to vote in a referendum on independence from Beijing.
Britain in 1997 handed the city back to China under a “one country, two systems” agreement, with its rights and freedoms guaranteed for 50 years under a semi-autonomous system.
But fears are growing that Beijing is tightening its grip and that those liberties are being eroded.
Law has pledged to push his party’s self-determination message from the start in LegCo, the city’s lawmaking body.
“People are voting (for) a new way and a new future for the democratic movement,” he said after his win.
“I’m bearing the trust and support of many people. It motivates me to do better.”
In an interview with AFP, Law cast himself as a bridge to unite the factions of the democratic camp, which is split between established parties wary of a pro-independence message and new activists who want more autonomy.
University student Law rose to prominence during the 2014 rallies, delivering speeches to tens of thousands who protested on the streets and meeting government officials in what were ultimately fruitless negotiations.
After the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win political reform, morale in the pro-democracy camp waned, with Law and Wong in and out of court on protest-related charges.
Law was last month convicted of inciting people to join an unlawful assembly, but escaped jail time with a community service sentence.
His election is a validation of the 2014 rallies, says Law, one of at least four young campaigners who are calling for more distance from Beijing to win a LegCo seat.
“There are a lot more people coming out to vote because they see new choice,” Law said.
“We inherited some spirit from the (Umbrella) Movement and I hope that that can continue in the future.”