For a peaceful future, Hong Kong people, particularly the young, must understand mainland China

Mong Kok riot and calls by a tiny minority for independence only serve to drive a wedge between our city and the central government

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 February, 2016, 12:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 February, 2016, 12:11am

Separatists is a term Beijing has generally reserved for the most restive parts of the nation, Tibet (西藏) and Xinjiang (新疆). The use of the word to describe those at the centre of the rioting in Mong Kok at the start of the Year of the Monkey therefore turns up the heat on people in our city who are independence-minded. Such activity is not tolerated on the mainland and it is uncertain how such an expression should be interpreted under our “one country, two systems” model.

Of one issue, there can be no doubt, though: anyone so inclined should take it as a warning. Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明), the director of the central government’s liaison office, was echoing the foreign ministry when he used the classification to describe the instigators of the riot. But he went a step further, saying that they were also “inclined towards terrorism”. Terrorism is an ill-defined term and Beijing has not categorised the violence that erupted in Mong Kok as such, but the tactics used to take on police could certainly veer in that direction if allowed to escalate.

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Separatists are, in the Communist Party’s eyes, a step below secessionists; it has termed secession, terrorism and extreme religious forces as core threats to be eradicated. The localist group Hong Kong Indigenous played a key role in the Mong Kok unrest and it makes no secret of a willingness to use radical means to attain its goal of a Hong Kong free of what it calls “suppression” by Beijing.

Zhang Dejiang (張德江), the state leader overseeing Hong Kong, last year warned against independence and self-determination and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying used his policy address last year to criticise the University of Hong Kong’s student magazine Undergrad for an article and book discussing the idea of independence.

Zhang Xiaoming did not link independence-mindedness with a need to enact national security legislation as required under Article 23 of the Basic Law. A small minority was behind the violence and their views are not shared by the people of Hong Kong. But it would serve the interests of all in our city to find out what drove such behaviour.

A deficit of knowledge about the mainland is blamed for the beliefs of some Hong Kong people. They would do well to take note of the sentiments expressed in three open letters to younger generations posted online by four mainland counterparts. They say the same vision for a peaceful future is shared and that the two sides should do their best to understand one another.