Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 6 News List

New wave of leaders step up in HK

IN THE SPOTLIGHT:Agnes Chow is already a seasoned activist — she was one of the core members of Joshua Wong’s Scholarism group, which organized rallies in 2012

AFP, HONG KONG

Hong Kong democracy activists Agnes Chow, left, and Lester Shum pose for a photograph outside the Hong Kong government headquarters on Tuesday last week.

Photo: AFP

The jailing of Hong Kong’s best-known democracy activists has pushed a new wave of young leaders to take the helm as they seek to keep the movement’s message alive.

Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and Nathan Law (羅冠聰), who carved out international reputations with their campaigning, were both sent to prison last month in what rights groups criticized as politically motivated prosecutions.

Alongside fellow activist Alex Chow (周永康), they are serving sentences of between six and eight months for their roles in a protest that triggered mass “Umbrella movement” rallies in 2014 calling for democratic reforms.

The prosecutions were a blow to the pro-democracy movement and seen as more evidence that Beijing is tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong, but they also breathed new life into a campaign that had been struggling for momentum since the 2014 rallies failed to win concessions.

Tens of thousands took to the streets to protest the jail terms last month and activists who have long been at the right hand of Wong and Law are now stepping into the spotlight.

“We should try to do more, not only for them, but also for our city, and to show the government and the Chinese regime that we are not going to be scared,” said Agnes Chow (周庭), 20, a close friend of the jailed activists.

Agnes Chow addressed the crowds at last month’s protest over the jail sentences and has regularly spoken to the media since her friends were imprisoned.

If a by-election for the Hong Kong legislature is held early next year — after her 21st birthday in December — she would be old enough to run for Law’s vacated seat and has not ruled that out.

Law was one of four lawmakers disqualified from the Legislative Council in July for inserting protests into their oaths of office.

Agnes Chow is already a seasoned activist — she was one of the core members of Wong’s Scholarism group, which organized huge rallies in 2012 forcing the government to shelve a proposal to introduce compulsory patriotic “national education” into schools.

She was one of the best-known faces of the “Umbrella movement,” regularly taking to the stage to address protesters, and is a member of Wong and Law’s political party Demosisto.

Agnes Chow said the government was using the jail terms to scare people away from social movements.

“It is important for us to learn how to overcome fear in order to fight for our own basic human rights, and freedom and democracy,” she said.

Agnes Chow and fellow Demosisto member Derek Lam (林淳軒) said the democratic movement now needed to improve its connections at the grassroots level to build a stronger base.

Lam, 24, who made an emotive speech outside the jail where Alex Chow and Law are being held, and is one of Demosisto’s most recognizable leaders, said the party ranks had swelled in the past two months.

“Young people are all trying to find a way to change Hong Kong,” he said.

However, Lam also faces charges over an anti-China demonstration last year and believes there will soon “only be a few people left” to lead the cause.

Activist Lester Shum (岑敖暉) said those who are free to continue campaigning should put pessimism aside.

Shum, 24, also a prominent student leader during the “Umbrella movement,” has been at the forefront of protests over the prosections. He said the imprisonment of Wong, Law and Alex Chow was a turning point for the democratic movement.

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