Crusade for Hong Kong to keep its distance from Beijing picks up steam

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 3:30am

A campaign to safeguard Hong Kong's autonomy within China has more than doubled its online support in the past four months, leading some to speculate on how deep that impulse goes among city residents.

The Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement (HKAM) had drawn over 4,300 "likes" on Facebook by the end of last month - up from 2,000 in May.

Mason Ma, a core member of HKAM, thinks people are supporting the group largely because of the government's repeated attempts to integrate the city with the mainland.

Associate Professor Chan Kin-man, a Chinese University sociologist, said the support highlighted Hongkongers' discontent with what they see as Beijing's political interference.

"Hongkongers are gradually feeling more and more negative impacts, and shocks, brought about by the rise of China," Chan said. "Not only is their daily life affected by things like the disturbances caused by mainland tourists, there are also impacts at the political level."

Critics have faulted the HKAM for using a colonial emblem on its flags: the city's old coat of arms, showing a Chinese dragon and British lion.

Ma said this did not reflect an attachment to the former colonial master.

"We took away the Union Jack and retained only the two elements [lion and dragon] that represented Hong Kong before 1997 - as a reminder of the prosperity the city is no longer enjoying," he said.

Leung told the Post last week that such displays "have not gone unnoticed by the mainland", and warned of the need to "be mindful of how the mainland looks at Hong Kong".

To Lew Mon-hung, an outspoken Leung backer who serves as a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the "city state" suggestion amounts to an attempt at "de-Sinofication".

But Ma rejects such criticism: "Has everyone forgotten it's the Basic Law that guarantees a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong? We are only calling for greater separation from the rest of China. Without that, the city cannot preserve its people's way of life."