Localist leader Edward Leung has called for cooperation between Hong Kong’s localists and pan-democrats in order to win back the two seats vacated by disqualified lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung.

The Youngspiration lawmakers were democratically elected to the Legislative Council last September, but then disqualified two months later following a government judicial review over the way they took their oaths of office. Edward Leung himself was barred from running by the electoral officer before the election.

Edward Leung speaking at Cambridge University. Photo: Hong Kong Cultural & Political Forum via Facebook.

Leung, a spokesperson for political group Hong Kong Indigenous, told students during a speech at Britain’s Cambridge University that Beijing was happy to see disunity within the city’s opposition camp.

“In front of the Chinese Communist Party, we are all the same,” he said on Monday. “We are all fated to be oppressed.”

Although localists were considered to have entered Hong Kong’s political scene as a third force opposing both the pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camp, Leung now said that dialogue and understanding with the pan-democrats is needed.

“We have to acknowledge the reality that it will be very hard for [Yau and Baggio Leung] to be re-elected,” he said. “So the most important thing at this moment is to secure the seat back for the opposition camp.”

Leung alluded to the worsening political climate in Hong Kong and government prosecutions against activists as a reason why cooperation is essential.

Edward Leung before the New Territories East By-election of February 2016. Photo: Chantal Yuen/HKFP.

“Look at what Hong Kong has become, everyone’s been sent to prison. Do we still have the capacity to fight among ourselves?” he asked. “Is it still about who truly holds the flag of democracy? This isn’t the question anymore.”

Leung is facing a riot charge himself for his part in the unrest which rocked Mong Kok last February. His trial is scheduled to begin next year. Four protesters have already been jailed for rioting.

“When teenagers, 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds are going to jail for Hong Kong, what can we still do to make sure the efforts of these people are not wasted?” he asked.

‘No regrets’

Leung said he did not regret supporting Yau and Baggio Leung during last September’s legislative elections, but suggested that the Youngspiration duo’s oath-taking stunt was unwise.

“To promote your ideology, your duty is to attract, convince those who disagree with you – not those who already agree with you,” he said.

 Edward Leung 梁天琦 speaks at Cambridge University

Publié par Hong Kong Cultural & Political Forum 文政網 sur lundi 12 juin 2017

He added that many people whom he has met since moving to the United States earlier this year regard Hong Kong’s localists as populists and even racists. “If we want to preserve our identity, it must not be xenophobic.”

See also: Support for independence drops, despite concerns over Hong Kong’s post-Handover decline – survey

As a Harvard University research fellow, Leung is embarking on a series of talks on Hong Kong politics in the United Kingdom and Canada.

In his Cambridge speech, Leung described Hong Kong’s protests in recent years as movements against the “official Chinese nationalism” – the Communist Party’s version of history, which bases the legitimacy of an authoritarian party-state on avenging China’s humiliation by foreign powers in the 19th and early 20th century.

According to Leung, this ideology was the underlying target of Hong Kong’s anti-national education demonstrations led by activist Joshua Wong in 2012 and the Occupy protests in 2014 – prior to which Beijing demanded that the city’s chief executive must “love the country and love Hong Kong.”

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.