By-election sounds death knell for Hong Kong localists
The writing is also on the wall for pan-democrats who allied themselves with those seeking autonomy or independence for the city
Among its many signals, the latest by-election has sounded the death knell for radical localism as a spent force among young people.
Through a combination of youthful arrogance, ignorance and inexperience, localist leaders overplayed their hands and discredited themselves long before election officials and the High Court respectively barred them from running in the by-election and taking their seats in the legislature.
Their disqualifications have sown deep divisions within society and caused much damage to the body politic, but the latest poll results show that most people either tolerated the government’s high-handed method or might even be glad to see the back of them.
From day one when Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang tried to swear in as a lawmaker by calling China “the people’s re-f***ing public of Chee-na”, people should have seen that radical localism was a dead end. Leung may soon be forgotten but he has taught a whole generation of young people to call China and mainlanders Chee-na and Chee-na-men just like the Japanese imperialists did during the second world war.
At last, pan-democrats, who had tried to be bedfellows with the localists even as the latter completely repudiated their core political commitments, have seen the writing on the wall. Alas, it’s too late.
“I realised that localist circles and their social media had appealed to people not to cast their votes for me,” said NeoDemocrats’ Gary Fan Kwok-wai, who won the New Territories East seat but referred to his victory as a “bitter” one.
Fan had flirted with the localists by criticising the more mainstream pan-dems and even tried to appeal for the localist vote ahead of Sunday’s polls, but it was the pan-dems who helped secure his victory.
Radical localism has repudiated the June 4 legacy, the Basic Law, “one country, two systems”, and concerns about democratic developments on the mainland – all of which have been key to the pan-dems’ long-standing political agenda.
And in place of “a high degree of autonomy”, localists want either full autonomy or independence. Yet, so many pan-dems went along and pretended not to see.
That provided the perfect opening for Beijing to intervene. It’s likely that without Beijing’s involvement, the Hong Kong government would not have had the will or persistence to launch the disqualification process.
The Legislative Council has now been fortified to prevent any localists from entering. Despite the collateral damage to our political system, it was what needed to be done.