Localist leader and ex-lawmaker Raymond Wong Yuk-man said Friday that he will be withdrawing from politics.
“I am saying goodbye to politics, meaning I am quitting. I will not join or lead any political group, nor will I stand as a candidate in any election,” Wong said in a statement. “Baby boomers like me should not stand in the way of young people.”
The 65-year-old veteran politician was a lawmaker between 2008 and 2016, but he failed to be re-elected during the 2016 Legislative Council elections. His retreat may affect the upcoming Legislative Council by-election which will likely take place to fill two seats left by Youngspiration politicians Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang.
The localist duo were ousted from the legislature last year. Wong decided not to run in any by-election, as he believes the pair will contest the seats.
He said another reason was that an alliance of localist groups – his Proletariat Political Institute, the Civic Passion party, and the camp led by scholar Chin Wan – were greatly defeated in the legislative elections. “Running for elections is just a means, the end is to achieve self-autonomy,” he said. “We shouldn’t join the race just to fight for a seat.”
Wong promised to continue caring about politics despite his withdrawal. “I will keep doing what I have been doing for the past 40 years: host internet talk shows and pen commentaries,” he said.
He said he wrote the statement to show his concern for localist youth who are going through the “toughest of times” as they face “political prosecution, oppression and isolation.”
“All I can do is write articles denouncing [the government]. I feel very heavy that I can’t do more,” he said.
Wong added that attacks from various political camps and police roundup of protesters in last year’s Mong Kok unrest marked the intensification of oppression in the city. He said Hong Kong has seen a growth of “young political prisoners” under the reign of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
“Having been in existence for less than three years, the budding localist movement has already been eradicated,” Wong said.
But the politician urged young supporters not to give up or make “unnecessary sacrifices.” Instead, he asked them to stay low for the time being, as “time is on their side.”
Wong has formed and then quit two political parties – the League of Social Democrats and People Power – citing differences with other leaders. Since becoming an icon of the localist movement, Wong has been dubbed “godfather” by supporters.
Jonathan Ho Chi-kwong, a former protege of Wong, joined the legislative elections last year with the goal of weakening public support for Wong. His speeches in election debates – accusing Wong of often changing his political stance and lacking principles – were widely circulated online at the time.
Last October, Wong was sentenced to two weeks behind bars for hurling a glass at Leung Chun-ying at the legislature in July 2014. He said he would appeal against the conviction.