Hong Kong student localists willing to face expulsion or arrest to further their cause

Studentlocalism representative says the group is ‘prepared for the worst’, but critics say the movement is ‘detached’ from public sentiment in the city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2016, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2016, 9:29pm

A student pro-independence group has said its members are willing to risk expulsion from school or even arrest to promote their cause.

The statement, from Studentlocalism, came after a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress earlier warned that supporters of independence could face criminal consequences if they fought for their cause using radical means.

Speaking at a television forum, Tony Chung Hon-lam, one of the convenors of Studentlocalism, said while the organisation and its groups in schools were worried about institutions putting pressure on them, they were “prepared for the worst”, such as being expelled or arrested.

Conscript army needed if Hong Kong were to split from China, says pro-independence group led by secondary school students

Founded in April, Studentlocalism is led by secondary school students and has around 60 members and is targeting schools to spread the word. So far, pupils from at least 17 schools, including Wah Yan College on Hong Kong Island and Ying Wa College in Cheung Sha Wan, have already set up concern groups.

On Sunday morning, a former Hong Kong Polytechnic University professor, Priscilla Lau Pui-king, also a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress argued that pro-independence advocates were “going against the trend and being detached” from public sentiments in Hong Kong.

“Those people couldn’t even manage their own lives ... How many of them could win the Legislative Council poll next month? May be one or two only,” she said after a separate TV programme.

Meanwhile, Chung said he believed the group has the maturity to analyse the idea of separating Hong Kong from China, and rejected claims that it was being manipulated.

“We have students of different ages, ranging from Secondary 1 to university students,” he pointed out.

Chung also said that most of the parents of the members were against them promoting the cause to some degree, but most did not stop them from taking action.

He also pointed that there were previously not student group supporting independence.

Watch what you say about Hong Kong independence, CY Leung warns local schools

“There are people in the education sector who support independence. For example, [the now-defunct] Scholarism promoted democracy under ‘one country two systems’. Those supporting independence won’t support the group,” Chung said.

The convenor also revealed that from his understanding, four to five of the school localist groups had been asked to meet school representatives, and even the principal in some cases. He said it was a “good thing” as both sides wanted to understand each other better.

Last Sunday, the Education Bureau set off a storm by warning that teachers could be dismissed if they encouraged students to engage in separatist talk.

On Tuesday, the Beijing-friendly Basic Law Institute chairman Alan Hoo said Hong Kong officials should clarify whether promoting independence is unlawful. If the government had clarified that independence was criminal, students should not be allowed to discuss it, he said.

Asked if independence advocates should be handled with existing criminal laws, Lau said: “They should, because they are destroying a necessary direction for Hong Kong’s development. Their [behaviour] is unfavourable for Hong Kong people’s overall interest.”