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Hong Kong localism and independence

Rising support for independence a wake-up call to enhance confidence in the ‘one country, two systems’ principle

For Hong Kong to break away from China is neither possible nor feasible; the answer lies in boosting confidence in a system that has served us well for 19 years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 12:54am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 12:54am

That Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China is beyond dispute. This has been spelled out in the first article of the Basic Law. Unequivocal as it is, the principle is regrettably not respected by some groups. Although these bodies remain at the extreme end of the political spectrum, their emergence has fuelled concerns over the rise of pro-independence forces. A newly released survey has given fresh reasons to be concerned. According to the Chinese University’s journalism school, some 17 per cent of respondents supported the notion of Hong Kong breaking away from China after 2047, referring to the 50-year time frame within which the pre-handover way of life shall remain unchanged.

The survey gives Beijing and the Hong Kong government a better grasp of local sentiment. It shows that public support for the city’s independence is stronger than previously thought. Also worthy of attention is the high support for a breakaway among those aged 15 to 24, with nearly two in five backing the idea.

Why Hong Kong independence, localism, nativism and recolonisation worry mainland China

The survey did not go further to ask respondents to elaborate. But they were inevitably influenced by the perception of the prevailing political and socio-economic situation. Our youngsters were raised after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Their political awareness probably developed at a time when Beijing was seen as tightening its grip on the city. The high percentage of support for independence among this age group could be a response to that perception.

Comfort is to be found in the overall support for keeping the “one country, two systems” principle intact beyond 2047, with 70 per cent in favour. The pursuit of democracy through violent means was also rejected by most respondents.

There are those who believe that the problem can be addressed by stepping up national education in schools. While instilling a better sense of patriotism may help, the best solution lies in implementing the “one country, two systems” principle faithfully. The promise has been repeatedly emphasised by state leaders, the latest coming from National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang (張德江 ) during his recent visit to the city. Independence is neither possible nor feasible. The city’s interest is best served by adhering to the “two systems” formula while remaining part of China. Despite occasional disputes, the formula has largely worked well over the past 19 years. But the survey suggests that pro-independence sentiment is growing among youngsters. More should be done to enhance confidence in the “one country, two systems” principle.