Hong Kong’s youngest-ever lawmaker, now disqualified, has told HKFP that his nine-month tenure in office proves that young people can be mature politicians.
Nathan Law – alongside three pro-democracy colleagues – vacated his office at the Legislative Council complex on Friday. The High Court ruled two weeks ago that they had retrospectively failed to take to take their oaths of office last October, bringing the total number of disqualified opposition lawmakers to six.
Before leaving, the 24-year-old posted a video showcasing his nine months of legislative work on Facebook. He stated in the video that he initiated and obtained approval for motions to increase electricity subsidies for low-income people and ban the use of metal barriers to isolate areas where homeless people sleep.
With 12 full-time legislative staff, his Demosisto party has also been involved in community work in the south of Hong Kong Island, as well as a research project to declassify documents in the UK, US and Taiwan relating to Hong Kong history.
“It’s possible for young people to enter politics,” he told a small group of reporters on Friday before departing. “Before [we took office], many thought that young people only knew how to go out and protest, oppose and criticise.”
“All of us in the office are from the post-1990s generation,” he added. “It’s a very clear message to society – please don’t treat us as if we’re not mature citizens.”
While the legislative motions raised and votes made by Law remain valid so far, the High Court ruling states that he failed to take office and was therefore never a legislator – having retrospectively vacated his seat on October 12.
It is unclear whether the Legislative Council Secretariat will demand that he return his salary and expenses payments over the past nine months, as it demanded of localists Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, the first to be ousted last November.
“This [ruling] is very unfair to the legislative assistants,” said Law on Friday. “They don’t even know if they can say they’ve worked as legislative assistants… the ruling says that I was never a legislator from the beginning.”
“They recognise my speeches, my votes and the policies I’ve written on paper,” he added. “But they don’t recognise the process.”
In a Thursday NowTV interview, ousted colleague Edward Yiu threatened to sue the Legislative Council over contractual provisions if the Secretariat were to demand that he return his salaries.
Law said he would consult a lawyer before deciding whether to do the same as Yiu. “If they want to take back our salaries, they should take it back from [legislature president] Andrew Leung,” he added. “He’s the one who allowed us to continue working in the legislature.”
HK$100,000 a month
As a lawmaker, the Demosisto activist had community offices located in Hong Kong Island’s Eastern and Southern districts, the expenses related to the two offices were covered by the Legislative Council.
But having been ejected from the legislature, Law said he would now have to dismiss some of his dozen staff members and shut down his Eastern district office, while attempting to keep his other base alive. His work in Southern district includes an attempt to prevent Aberdeen’s Tin Wan Shopping Centre from being redeveloped into a private international school, and a petition against constructing a 1,000-room luxury hotel in Ap Lei Chau.
“If we receive HK$100,000 a month [in donations], we can carry on conducting our work at its current scale,” said Law.
He added that he would treat all of his staff equally, and would not prioritise funding the salaries of his most well-known party colleagues such as Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow.
In the two weeks since the ruling against Law, Demosisto activists have continued to set up regular street booths across Hong Kong Island, explaining to the public why they thought the ruling was unjust. On Tuesday, the party also set up booths near the entrances to the Hong Kong Book Fair, warning passers-by of the rumoured potential appointment of staunchly pro-Beijing school principal Choi Yuk-lin as under secretary for education.
“Going out onto the streets and communicating with people has always been Demosisto’s direction,” said Law.
“The biggest regret is that we’ll no longer be able to follow up on some of the work we’re doing or the cases where people have asked us for help,” he added. “We’ve lost a very strong platform to make our voices heard in society.”
“I just hope [our voters] will understand that the government has discounted their votes for no reason… This is a government plot to reduce the mandate of the Legislative Council.”