Hong Kong's increasingly strident "nativist" or "localist" movement has become steadily more visible since last year's Occupy unrest.

Warning signs of a nascent nativist movement were apparent several years ago to anyone prepared to notice. Rising public interest in otherwise benign subjects, such as Hong Kong food culture and intangible heritage - all things that can be grasped, personalised and readily exported into the Hong Kong émigré diaspora - signposted a clear evolution of this trend.

See also: Flagging up fears over threat to Hong Kong's autonomy

In the past, any broad-based notion of Hong Kong nativism was limited. A sense of belonging was usually expressed only in personal identity terms. Until the 1960s, "nativist" issues concerned only small groups, such as the local Portuguese and Eurasian communities, and the then-tiny section of the Chinese population who consciously self-identified as Hong Kong-Chinese - people whose vested interests seldom extended beyond the city.

A brief history of the Hong Kong nativist movement is easy to track. An official policy shift towards the greater Sinofication of local society became discernable after mass protests in 2003 over Basic Law Article 23 and has steadily gathered pace over the past decade, accelerating in recent years.

Consequently, increased numbers of ordinary Hongkongers feel excluded from any significant decisions affecting them and their city. A senior government cadre comprised of staggering mediocrities nakedly in cahoots with tycoon interests, and explicitly answerable to the central government rather than the people of the place they allegedly administer, has fuelled widespread discontent - and a frightening level of genuine despair for the future among Hong Kong's young people.

To counter this trend, localist groups evolved and then fractured into splinter groups. Conspiracy theorists maintain that external forces with destabilising agendas are behind their formation but blaming outside interests remains wide of the mark.

A senior government cadre comprised of staggering mediocrities nakedly in cahoots with tycoon interests, and explicitly answerable to the central government ... has fuelled widespread discontent - and a frightening level of genuine despair 

As ever in Hong Kong, those in authority dozed as these bush fires started, wilfully oblivious to the steadily gathering smoke. Anyone attempting to sound the alarm about the reasons behind broader community disquiet, however cautiously, was dismissed as a troublemaking fabulist. Blaming the messenger for unwelcome news, rather than listening to - and acting upon - what they have to say, is the habitual response.

When demonstrators began brandishing the colonial-era Hong Kong flag, localist thought processes - or what passed for them - had reached a dangerous tipping point. A more provocative way of saying to the current Hong Kong administration and their puppet-masters that things are now truly dire can hardly be imagined.

"Better before!" protesters seem to be shouting. But few have fully articulated exactly what was substantively better before "1997 and all that" supervened.

Historically, vapid reasoning has swiftly degenerated into woolly-headed, politically inflammatory "Hong Kong Autonomy Movement" thinking, aided and abetted by hitherto-obscure academics with their own professional agendas to peddle. Dr Horace Chin Wan-kan, the widely acknowledged ideological leader of this new field of study and author of the seminal work On The Hong Kong City-State, operates from that world-renowned centre of intellectual excellence, Lingnan University, in Tuen Mun.

Hong Kong nativism takes various forms. Harassing innocent Chinese tourists, waving the colonial-era flag and loudly booing at football matches the national anthem of what is - like it or not - the country of which Hong Kong is an integral sovereign territory are all intellectually logical, if deplorable and counterproductive, progressions of this movement.

But where this development will lead remains anyone's guess.

For more on Hong Kong history and heritage, go to scmp.com/topics/old-hong-kong