Three ways for Hong Kong to rationally approach the independence debate
Dealing with independence calls is a headache for the Hong Kong government. However, making them an offence is not a good idea. Calls for independence are based on emotions. They should be countered in a rational way.
Firstly, let the young activists stew. Ignore – and quietly rectify – their actions. Treat them like unruly children who make unreasonable demands. This reduces the potential for heroism and martyrdom.
Remember the immature state of their frontal cortex, which impairs reasoning. Punish only those actions which go against the law. “Peaceful” blockades do not have to be tolerated, as they are an unacceptable infringement on other people’s freedom of movement. Also work to prevent outraged, aggressive youths from taking over university campuses as currently happens in the United States.
Secondly, create an accessible “body of evidence”, supported by well-documented arguments, showing there is no future for Hong Kong without a cordial relationship with the central government. It should spell out Hong Kong’s fate as deeply intertwined with that of China: then, now and in the future.
This a worthwhile and necessary exercise, not just to take on the secessionists, but also to present the case to a wider public. The discussion about independence in classrooms – which should not be prohibited either – will benefit from the availability of such materials.
Thirdly, put negative sentiments about China into perspective. While many Western media outlets uncritically render whatever Hong Kong activists are claiming, everyone knows that China is an extremely dynamic country where many positive things are happening.
Demonising and categorically rejecting everything about the mainland will, in the end, not make sense to most people.
Over one million foreigners currently work and study in China. Ultimately, a small group of Hong Kong activists will not determine how the world looks at China.
Criminalising the voicing of a view is hard to defend and even harder to manage than safeguarding respect for the national anthem.
Instead, extreme opinions should be openly challenged, debated and debunked. Independence advocates’ spotlight should be diminished, rather than enlarged.
Josephine Bersee, Mid-Levels