In 2014, Nathan Law partook as one of the famed student protesters during Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, ignited by a student’s desire for universal suffrage—to be able to vote for the highest position in Hong Kong, the Chief Executive. The protesters occupied major streets in Hong Kong for 79 days; they were pepper sprayed, tear-gassed and some were even beaten.
Two years later, Nathan Law is the city’s youngest lawmaker at 23, sparking a new breed of legislators in the city. Progressive, new-wave lawmakers include Sixtus “Baggio” Leung of Youngspiration, Yau Wai-ching (the youngest woman ever elected to Hong Kong’s legislature,) Cheung Chung-tai (organizer of the anti-cross-border mainland trader protests,) Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Lau Siu-lai, and “King of Votes” slash journalist-turned-environmentalist, Eddie Chu.
Law gained more than 50,000 votes in the recent legislative elections last September 2016, represening the newly founded party, Demosisto. The party is co-founded by Law and fellow student/Umbrella Movement protester, Joshua Wong. Law and his party’s long-term goal is to call for independence from China and a referendum on the city’s sovereignty in 2047. Prior to the election, Law and Wong had been convicted of unlawful assembly but were able escape prison time and do community service instead.
Following the recent incident during the new legislator’s oath taking where these newly-elected pro-democracy lawmakers protested against China during oath taking, including Law who quoted Gandhi, many continue to doubt their capabilities, “like it was a kindergarten and comparing these law makers to kids with tantrums,” said Alex Lo, reporter from the South China Morning Post. So far, Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching are still not able to retake their oaths.
But Law disagrees with the involvement of age when it comes to implementing serious change as he says in a Q&A with Priyanka Gupta from Aljazeera, “For the past two years I have been involved in the citizen’s movement. I am keen on continuing that. I would sacrifice myself to make my target happen. It is with that experience that I would bring changes to the system. I think…during this election, because of our movement, people came to us and supported us, and that influence will continue in the future.”
He cites his real life experience as the zeal of wanting change. Law was born in Shenzhen which neighbors Hong Kong. He studied in a school run by loyalists and remembered when Liu Xiaobo won his Nobel Prize in Literature, his school principal denounced him during a morning assembly. This sparked a fire in Law, who moved to Hong Kong in 1999.
“We hope that we can bring the issue of Hong Kong’s future to the parliamentary table. That’s completely different to protesting,” says Law.
Wong, who was nominated as TIME’s person of the Year in 2014 is now 19 yet still too young to run for office says to TIME, “It’s amazing. We’ve created a miracle in Hong Kong…People want change. Don’t think that young people can’t be a force of change.”
For now, Law remains realistic. Achieving independence seems implausible so instead, he seeks a city with high autonomy, a fair political system and social justice.
And the small spark from two years ago, has turned into a flame for these young lawmakers. Hopefully, an inferno of change is what the city would soon see as the 31 years of the “One Country Two Systems” still remains.