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Young people preserve the spirit of Occupy Movement by joining elections

By Natale Ching and Venice Lai

September 28, 2014 was the most unforgettable day in the 21 years of Wong Sui-lung’s life. On that day, the Hong Kong government fired 87 canisters of tear gas at non-violent protesters in Admiralty and set in motion what would become the 79-day Occupy Movement in Hong Kong.

Wong, who was a steward for Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP), was enraged by the police’s use of excessive violence against unarmed protesters. But he was also heartened to see many friends he had thought were politically apathetic coming out to support the movement after the scenes broadcast on television. “When I saw that Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and even Mong Kok were crowded with citizens striving for democracy, I started to believe that there is hope for Hong Kong,” says Wong.

Although the Occupy Movement eventually came to an end with the police clearing out the occupied sites and arresting the last protesters, its spirit continues in other forms. The movement awakened a whole generation of young people who stood up and voiced their strong desire for genuine democracy.

Initiated by a students’ class boycott campaign against the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC)’s restrictive framework for electing Hong Kong’s Chief Executive by universal suffrage, the Occupy Movement grew to become the largest student-led protest in the history of Hong Kong.

The end of the occupation without winning any concessions from the government has left some participants struggling to find a way to extend and build upon its achievements. Some young people have set their sights on District Council elections later this year as a starting point for changing the established system and directly spreading the concept of democracy to communities across Hong Kong.

Wong Sui-lung – who quit his office job during the Occupy Movement – is now considering standing in the upcoming District Council elections. As a member of Umbrella Blossom, a group of former OCLP volunteers, Wong has been visiting districts like Sham Shui Po and Shatin to spread the spirit of the Umbrella Movement to local residents. Wong now spends most Sundays in Shatin, where he lives, setting up booths, distributing flyers and knocking on doors.

His work does not always go smoothly. Wong recalls confronting a group of residents with opposing views during one of his community visits in Sham Shui Po. Wong and his friends were scolded and accused of creating chaos by crowds who surrounded their booth. But by reasoning with them Wong managed to turn the dispute into a constructive discussion. “It’s actually not that bad,” he says. “Even if we can’t persuade them [the blue ribbons], when a group of people are listening…some neutral citizens may find our arguments reasonable.”

This experience motivated Wong to stand for election. He believes as a district councillor, he could make use of the district council’s resources to do community work without being heckled in the streets. Eventually, he hopes to change people’s mindsets and raise their awareness of and involvement in community affairs.