One of the legacies of last year’s Umbrella Movement protests was the emergence of new political parties founded by young people unsatisfied with the city’s fight for democracy. Many of these groups are joining next month’s District Council elections, presenting a slew of green faces to Hong Kong’s political scene.
Youngspiration is one such “Umbrella soldier” group. Founded after the eviction of Occupy protest sites last December, the party has gained an increasingly strong presence online and in local communities.
In an interview with HKFP, Youngspiration leader Baggio Leung Chung-hang said the party refuses to be defined by the city’s traditional political divide and wants to explore new ways to achieve democracy in Hong Kong.
A New Political Position
“Pan-democrats define themselves as the enemy of the pro-establishment side, this is actually quite unreasonable… But it is the reality in Hong Kong, right versus left. During the Umbrella Movement it was yellow ribbon versus blue ribbon,” Leung said. “The political spectrum should not be a line, it should at least be a triangle,” he added.
Leung, a 29-year-old digital marketer, said the “localist” ideas of Youngspiration members’ make them unfit for both the pro-establishment and pan-democrat camps.
“Localism is a point of view. We see Hong Kong’s problems from Hongkongers’ perspectives and put Hongkongers’ interests first,” Leung said. “We want to focus on district work and building up the identity of Hong Kong people… On some issues we are more progressive than the pan-democrats and maybe called radical.”
However, unlike other localist groups, Youngspiration does not have a clear stance on the possibility of Hong Kong seeking independence.
“We demand the right to rule,” Leung said. “But on the issue of sovereignty rights, our stance is vague. The party does not have a clear direction or view on that.”
The First Battlefield
Youngspiration had its eyes set on the district council elections from the very beginning.
“When we were evicted [from Occupy protest sites], we felt some things were unfinished and we were unhappy with current political parties,” Leung said. “At the beginning there were only five of us, and we decided our first battlefield would be district council elections.”
Now ten months old and 147 members strong, Youngspiration is sending members to contest nine seats in four districts: Kennedy Town, Whampoa, Tai Kok Tsui and Tsing Yi.
The party chose these districts because they have a large young voter base.
“We wouldn’t stand a chance in traditional middle class districts such as Wan Chai,” says Leung.
Youngspiration candidates started reaching out to communities after Chinese New Year in February. “The response has been getting better. At the beginning people’s response was cold. We don’t have little gifts to hand out and we don’t have slogans like ‘serve the community.’ We often talk about elevated concepts… We focus on the district council’s function as a consultation body, and its monitoring function,” he said.
By communicating with residents frequently, the party has been able to win the trust of some communities. But Leung is aware of the difficulties ahead.
One such difficulty is the sometimes strained relations with pan-democrats. Often viewed as closer to the pro-democracy camp, Youngspiration and other “Umbrella solider” groups found themselves “squeezed” in by bigger pan-democrat parties, according to Leung.
Most pan-democrat parties have coordinated through a group called Power for Democracy to make sure they don’t run against each other in districts. Youngspiration was one of those who refused to take part in the joint plans and so is clashing with other pan-democrats in three races.
“The so-called coordination is big parties making small parties accommodate their plans,” Leung said.