'Independence' groups want a stronger local voice in how city is run

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 2:57am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 3:59am

Three anti-Beijing groups, which advocate either independence or "full autonomy" for Hong Kong, are sticking to their guns in opposing what they see as interference in the city's affairs by the central government.

All formed in recent years, the three groups - Hongkongers Come First, the Hong Kong Autonomy Movement (HKAM) and The Faculty of Orchid Gardening - are often branded as separatists that demand independence for Hong Kong.

However, Hongkongers Come First is the only group among the three to advocate the separation of the city from the People's Republic of China.

The other two stress they have never demanded that Hong Kong become a nation state.

Referring to a recent rumour suggesting mainland officials had cited the groups as a major concern over their anti-Beijing sentiments, HKAM spokesman Vincent Lau said: "I believe Beijing might have mixed up [the beliefs of] these groups."

The Faculty of Orchid Gardening's chairman, Barry Ma, also said his group did not support the idea that Hong Kong should be an independent nation state.

The rumour arose after Hongkongers Come First activists broke into the People's Liberation Army barracks in Admiralty on Boxing Day, with Beijing expressing "grave concern" over the incident.

"It was Hongkongers Come First who broke into the PLA barracks, not us." Lau said. "We do not want people to mix us up.

"But we have been targeted by mainland officials for a very long time, this is not the first time we have heard about it.

"I hope the officials concerned will come to us and listen to our beliefs on their own."

He said the group, which was formed in 2011, was demanding city-state autonomy - meaning Hong Kong should enjoy the right to autonomy under the "one country, two systems" principle.

The Orchid group, formed in 2012, said it aimed to defend local values and was against Beijing's interference in local policies. Ma said the group did not care if Beijing was talking about them.

Peter Wong Man-kong, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, said it would not be surprising if the central government had sent people to the city to study these groups.

"Since Zhang Xiaoming took office [as director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong], he has been actively carrying out duties relating to the constitutional situation of Hong Kong,"

However, Wong said he did not think Beijing had been watching the groups particularly closely as they were only three among many new groups formed in Hong Kong in recent years.

Another local NPC deputy, Brave Chan Yung, said many of his "mainland friends" had expressed worries about growing anti-mainland voices in Hong Kong. The less they knew about Hong Kong, the more sensitive they were to the issue.

"I believe what most citizens want is not Hong Kong independence, but improvement in the implementation of 'one country, two systems'," he said.

The New Territories Association of Societies, of which Chan is chairman, issued a statement condemning the members of Hongkongers Come First for breaking into the PLA barracks.