25 October 2016
If he succeeds in lowering the election age requirement, Joshua Wong would be an interesting case study. Photo: RTHK
If he succeeds in lowering the election age requirement, Joshua Wong would be an interesting case study. Photo: RTHK

What makes Joshua Wong run?

It’s not for nothing that Joshua Wong wants the age limit lowered for candidates for public office.

When he launched a legal challenge on Monday to slash the minimum age requirement to 18 from 21, it came with more than a hint of his intention to run for the Legislative Council next year.

Wong, who rose to prominence during last year’s democracy protests, turned 19 on Tuesday, not too young to vote but not old enough to be voted on until at least 2017.

As a student leader of the protest movement, Wong no doubt was one of the best of the class of 2014.

He proved his mettle opposite top government officials and with fellow students, but does he have what it takes to prosecute his advocacy from the other side?

Some people are asking because his petition for a judicial review is creating a buzz.

Never mind that it is only the first step in a complex legal and procedural process whose chances of success are at best uneven in the present political environment.

But what Wong has done is bring attention to an election regime that has allowed the pro-democracy and pro-establishment camps to dictate Hong Kong politics since the first post-handover Legco elections in 1998.

Wong came of age during the protest movement, along with a welter of student leaders and young people who saw an opportunity to influence local politics beyond exercising their right to vote.

He wants people old enough to vote to be old enough to run for public office.

The idea is to encourage more young people to engage in the reshaping of the political landscape when they have the most at stake in Hong Kong’s future.

Wong knows he cannot be a student leader all his life.

Which is why he is willing to trade his moral halo for a politician’s hat and get into the cut and thrust of a completely different arena.

If that happens, he would be an interesting case study.

Most young Hong Kong people are not interested in politics, despite their exposure to its street version last year.

Also, they see no incentive in an unrepresentative election framework dominated by functional constituencies. They don’t think such an arrangement allows their voice to be heard.

That’s where Wong disagrees.

In his mind, those voices should not be left in the streets and should be brought to bear on political issues in an elective forum.

Wong obviously believes that reform of the political system is best fought from within.

Already, he is putting veteran politicians on notice about his intentions, so it’s no surprise that establishment figures are giving his plans the cold treatment.

Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam is adamant the public has no appetite to overhaul the election age requirement anytime soon.

Stay tuned.

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EJ Insight writer

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