Hong Kong independence activists elected to head Chinese University’s student union
Radical Spark leader Chow Shue-fung promises to ‘fight with force’
Members of a radical group that advocates greater independence for Hong Kong were elected to lead Chinese University’s student union in what an academic warned was a sign of localism taking root among young people after the Mong Kok riot.
Sixty per cent of students voted for the activist group Spark. It won 2,372 votes, beating rival group Iluminant by more than 800 votes, though voter turnout was only 23 per cent.
Spark leader Chow Shue-fung said that as long as students did not resist, the group would fight with force. A member of Spark was arrested after the Mong Kok riot on the first day of the Lunar New Year.
Spark’s localist stance sets it apart from previous Chinese University student unions, which advocated intertwined democratic development in both Hong Kong and mainland China.
Chow said Spark’s victory reflected rising localist ideals on the city’s campuses.
On Friday the University of Hong Kong’s new student union president, Althea Suen, said she supported independence for Hong Kong, calling it a viable solution.
Members of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, branded “radical separatists” by Beijing, were key players in the Mong Kok riot.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior lecturer at Chinese University, said that Spark’s victory sent a warning to the government and society of the growing support for localism and said the government must find ways to resolve public discontent.
“Chinese University’s student union has a long tradition of upholding leftist values, and thus the victory of Spark is a historical breakthrough,” Choy said. “This shows localism is not just supported by so-called useless youth, but also university students who are seen as youth elites.”
But former Chinese University student union president Johnson Yeung said it was too early to gauge the level of support for localism among university students.
Yeung said Spark did not highlight its stance on Hong Kong-mainland relations in its election platform, which, on the contrary, put greater emphasis on student welfare issues such as whether to allow chains like McDonald’s to operate on campus.
“But it is indeed true that over the past few years, many students have begun to question ‘one country, two systems’.”