Hong Kong localism and independence

Talk on Hong Kong’s future must not deviate from the Basic Law

More political groups are championing self-determination or independence for the city. However, it must be recognised that the city is an inalienable part of China that enjoys a high degree of autonomy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 12:28am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 12:28am

More political groups have recently come out championing self-determination or independence for the city. What they advocate for is not just infringing China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong; some activists are even prepared to act outside the law to achieve their goals. Their emergence is no doubt a cause for concern, as reflected by Beijing’s toughened rhetoric. The tension has raised the political stakes even higher as a result.

Both the student-led Demosisto and the electoral alliance formed by Youngspiration and fellow Occupy protest groups are calling for a referendum on the city’s future beyond 2047, referring to the 50-year time frame within which the pre-1997 capitalistic system and way of life shall remain unchanged. Another pro-independence group, the Hong Kong National Party, went further to say that it would use whatever means available to break away from the mainland.

Support for localism was already manifested in last year’s district council polls and the Legislative Council by-election in February, in which a student candidate grabbed more than 60,000 votes. These groups are expected to split the vote within the pro-democracy camp in September’s Legco poll and make the political landscape even more fragmented.

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It should be noted that pro-independence remains the minority view in society. It may well be an election slogan rather than a real campaign. That said, the debate on independence and self-determination may intensify when more of these groups are elected into the political structure.

Beijing and the Hong Kong government are understandably worried, especially when the notions appear to have an appeal to younger people. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying wasted no time to set the record straight. Sovereignty, he said, had no time limit and was therefore not up for change. Some Beijing loyalists and mainland legal experts even warned that separatism might lead to one country, one system.

Beijing’s vocal stance against Hong Kong’s independence is to be expected. While it is fully aware that tough rhetoric may fuel the debate and prompt more people to rally behind the cause of independence, it will not shy away from speaking up on matters of sovereignty and unity.

That Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China and enjoys a high degree of autonomy is spelled out clearly in the Basic Law. Any discussion of the future development must not deviate from that basis lest the city’s interests will be undermined.