Public Eye

Public Eye: laugh or cry, but Hong Kong’s independence movement is here to stay

The hostility that so many young people feel towards mainland China is spreading – and Beijing needs to turn these minds around quickly

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 3:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 3:58pm

Don’t worry. All this talk of independence by Hong Kong’s younger generation will fizzle out in time. Anyone who tells you that is either an idiot or takes you for one.

The independence movement has gained too much traction. Time will not derail it, nor temper the hostility many young people have towards mainland China. Compare it to a cancer if you like. It has spread from loony talk to universities, and now to secondary schools. Teenaged Tony Chung Hon-lam, convenor of the nascent Studentlocalism, has even broached a conscript army for an independent Hong Kong.

Go ahead, laugh. Or maybe you should cry. He looks and sounds like a Joshua Wong Chi-fung wannabe. Wong was about the same age when he sank national education. So let’s not dismiss Chung’s appeal among the young.

When so many believe fantasy can become reality, the worst thing you can do is to dismiss it as a passing folly

A political cause dies only when the reasons that spawned it no longer apply. But the reasons that lit the independence fire still remain. In fact, more have materialised, convincing young people that independence is a wall that can guard against mainland culture invading Hong Kong. You can’t blame them for thinking that way when they see booksellers being abducted, their peers being blocked as Legislative Council candidates for their political beliefs, and Beijing loyalists demanding a ban on independence talk in schools.

Yes, Hong Kong independence is fantasy, but when so many believe fantasy can become reality, the worst thing you can do is to dismiss it as a passing folly. Trying to choke it with tactics that go against Hong Kong’s values won’t work either. Tony Chung was not fazed when schools threatened to stop students from distributing independence leaflets. He said they would do it just outside campuses instead. No, the independence movement won’t fade anytime soon.

It’s more palatable to say low wages, high home prices, and the lack of upward mobility in a society where the rich dictate policies drove disillusioned youths to the independence fantasy. It’s harder to admit Beijing’s tightening grip has something to do with it too.

Young Hongkongers take their freedoms for granted. The thought of mainland-style show trials, forced confessions, and censored news seeping into Hong Kong spooks them. As I have said before, lurking inside ABC – anyone but CY – is the real ABC – anyone but China. Beijing needs to turn minds around or the younger generation will be lost for good.