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Hong Kong localism and independence

You’re either with Hong Kong independence seekers or against them

Robert Chow Yung says Beijing has made it clear it is prepared to crush any independence movement, and Hongkongers should take it seriously, including our political and business elite

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 3:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 7:27pm

Our delegation’s recent visit to Beijing and reception by the Chinese leadership was perhaps more attention-grabbing than it would have been because it happened in an otherwise news-starved period, but the visit did convey certain important messages. Was it from Beijing with love, or was it from Beijing with a warning ? Neither is entirely accurate; a more apt description may be: from Beijing with a bugle call.

The highlight of our trip was the unexpected two-hour meeting with Zhang Dejiang (張德江), the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, as well as with other high-level officials.

What messages were conveyed? Topics such as “one country, two systems” and the lawful right of the NPC to interpret the Basic Law may be considered old hat by the media and, as a result, would not evoke much interest.

But there is one pressing problem facing us which has the undivided attention of Hong Kong people. That is the emerging threat of the so-called Hong Kong independence movement.

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The strong and clear message from Beijing is that the leadership is taking the emergence of the so-called independence movement very seriously. Some of Zhang’s comments on this subject are a matter of record with the Hong Kong media.

In Zhang’s own words, Hong Kong people must not underrate, ignore or nourish the so-called independence movement, and must fight it openly, with flags waving.

He also said that the NPC’s interpretation of the Basic Law is a clear indication of the central government’s will and determination as well as its unwavering stance against the movement.

It is true that he did not lay down the role and duties of the Hong Kong special administrative region government in this “fight”, but this can be seen as conforming to the norm of Chinese official communication.

One can safely assume that the role of the chief executive and the SAR government in this fight is paramount.

It is therefore surprising to note the glaring lack of enthusiasm on this subject by the declared or still undeclared candidates for the coming chief executive election.

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It is intriguing, to say the least, that the key message uttered the most locally concerns “harmony”. There’s nothing wrong with harmony, but a question must be asked: “harmony” with whom? It surely cannot be harmony with the so-called Hong Kong independence camp.

But what about those who are nourishing and supporting the independence movement both in front of and behind the scenes? If we’re not seeking “harmony” with them, then whom?

If the aim is harmony among the people and harmony among those who are against, or have at least openly declared and demonstrated that they are not on the side of the pro-independence culprits, that is fine and should be applauded. But beyond that?

There exists in Hong Kong a growing rumble that those who voice and propagate Hong Kong independence don’t really mean it. Those people are just stupid kids and should not be taken seriously.

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By extension of this logic, anyone showing compassion for, and backing, these “stupid kids” has nothing to do with supporting the so-called independence movement.

So, are we talking about harmony for the sake of it, regardless of the consequences? Does it not conjure up the image of Neville Chamberlain in the 1930s waving a piece of useless paper and declaring “peace for our time?”

There is no lack of mumbling that the Chinese leadership is just overreacting to ‘a bunch of immature kids’

At the time, many people thought Chamberlain was right and hailed him a hero. Only hindsight proved otherwise.

For anyone who cares to listen, there is no lack of mumbling and questioning behind the scenes that the Chinese leadership is just overreacting to “a bunch of immature kids”. It should surprise no one that the loudest utterances have come from the pan-democratic camp.

But when the same sentiments are heard being whispered behind the doors of top local businesses and in some political circles, it becomes intriguing.

Will it come to a point where certain business circles insist on playing the harmony card in the coming chief executive election with the pan-democrats, in defiance of the central government’s pronounced stance on separatism?

Any political observer would have thought it a foregone conclusion to expect potential chief executive candidates to take seriously this call for vigilance and action, especially when Hong Kong people are also up in arms against elected lawmakers who treated the swearing of allegiance to the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law as a joke, and who are now suffering the consequences.

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The best guesstimate at the moment is for the pan-democratic camp to grab 25 per cent of the all-important votes – 300 of the 1,200 Election Committee seats. Or will assistance come from unexpected corners to help carry the election? The mind boggles.

In a movie, when a bugle sounds, one can expect the cavalry to come charging in and save the day.

In real life, when Beijing sounds the bugle, should one wonder who will be absent from the cavalry or just conveniently linger at the back?

Robert Chow Yung is convener of the Silent Majority for Hong Kong