Hong Kong localism and independence

Campaign for Hong Kong independence shifts to secondary schools, with creation of ‘localist’ concern groups

However, Education Bureau insists such school activities are banned and principal says institutions should not be turned into political battlegrounds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 1:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 10:40pm

The campaign for Hong Kong independence has extended to secondary schools, with students from at least 14 schools setting up “localist” concern groups, prompting the Education Bureau to warn such causes would be banned on campus.

The rhetoric that seemed to be growing among undergraduate unions across the city seemed to have had an effect on younger students as a 60-member group called “Studentlocalism” mounted a call to action on its Facebook page earlier this week.

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The group, which was founded in April with a stated mission to get the city prepared when the time came for self-determination, appeared to be gearing up for the opening of the school year.

“In the coming days, Studentlocalism will continue to increase [the number of] its street booths to promote independence,” the group wrote on Facebook.

“We have also started contacting different secondary student unions which support independence to foster more cooperation.”

The group called on supporters to run for the student unions in their respective schools when the new term begins in September in a bid to bring “the independence voice” to campuses. It did not respond to questions from the Post.

As of yesterday, pupils from 14 secondary schools had echoed Studentlocalism’s call to set up their own concern groups in their schools, including Wah Yan College on Hong Kong Island and Ying Wa College.

Mak Tak-cheung, vice-principal of Ying Wa College, said students would need to talk to teachers if they wanted to set up booths for promotional purposes at school.

“We will listen to their plan and decide ... if it’s appropriate or if it goes against the school and the Education Bureau’s policies,” Mak said.

Ting Wing-hing, principal of Po Leung Kuk Centenary Li Shiu Chung Memorial College, which has one concern group, said he would learn more from the students in September.

“I want the school to be a place for pupils to learn about knowledge, skills and moral character ... [It should not be] a political battleground,” he said.

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A spokesman for the Education Bureau told the Post that “no pro-independence advocacy or activities should appear in schools ... and any organisation which serves to promote independence must be banned.”

This latest turn in the burgeoning localist movement came as a survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s student union found that 61 per cent of those polled would vote for the city’s independence, up from 37 per cent two years ago.

Students involved with union magazine Undergrad interviewed 385 students via an online questionnaire from June to July as part of a regular poll on students’ political views .

It found that 43 per cent of the students believed in Beijing’s “one country, two systems” policy as the most suitable political framework for the city – a decline of 25 percentage points compared to the result two years ago.

The survey also found that 41 per cent said independence was the best system for Hong Kong, compared to 15 per cent in 2014. If a vote on independence was held tomorrow, 61 per cent said they would vote in favour of it, even if Beijing did not recognise it.

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The poll was conducted against a backdrop of the storm sparked by election officials’ disqualification of HKU student Edward Leung Tin-kei and five other localists from the Legislative Council elections in September because of their pro-independence stance.

Asked which political figure could represent them, 71.7 per cent said no one could. Leung came top among those who chose a politician, at 9.9 per cent.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said to counter the rise of pro-independence sentiment, opinion leaders, teachers and respected educators, such as university presidents, should express their views.

“The government should also try to improve the social atmosphere by being more inclusive and creating more dialogue,” he said.

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