A once-moderate academic says Hongkongers must ditch any hopes of political progress through dialogue with Beijing and join forces to strengthen civil society instead. Dr Brian Fong Chi-hang dismisses the traditional belief taken by many pan-democrats for decades that the city will eventually implement universal suffrage should they fight for "a democratic China". But that does not mean he sides with the small group of protesters who have made sporadic calls for independence in recent years. READ MORE: Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying seeks Beijing approval for new policies "The Beijing-decreed political reform blueprint [for the 2017 chief executive poll] has already proven that it is not a workable idea to anticipate constructive dialogue with a China that has been liberalised," Fong, an assistant professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education's department of Asian and policy studies, told the South China Morning Post . "On the other hand, those people who advocate independence are looking forward to the break-up of China so Hong Kong could determine its own fate … but our city's democratic movement should not be based on something uncertain either." The only way to maintain the city's autonomy and freedom is to know your enemy and beef up your defence, Fong said, citing the recent controversy at the University of Hong Kong surrounding the decision by its ruling council to deny liberal scholar Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun a key managerial post. Such political interference was not an isolated case and had emerged in other sectors, he said. "To fight for democracy, Hongkongers should first be aware of how severe is the situation we are in right now." READ MORE: Beijing's new five-year plan will create opportunities for Hong Kong, 'but firms must raise their game' Fong said Hongkongers should set up concern groups - similar to the HKU alumni concern group and the budding Progressive Lawyers Group - in different sectors to resist Beijing's intervention, which he believed would not only protect the city's core values but also widen the scope of democracy supporters. "I don't see there's any chance to reconcile or to negotiate with Beijing right now. Isn't it a bit ridiculous to call for a dialogue when the other side is attacking you?" he said. "It is not a moment for conversation but resistance." Formerly a lecturer at City University, Fong joined the Alliance for Universal Suffrage in 2010 in which he and a team of pan-democrats and scholars formulated a middle-of-the-road reform plan and pushed for dialogue with Beijing. "But that was very disappointing. Back then we hoped we could build trust with Beijing [after reform was passed] and have regular communication … but nothing happened." He put forward yet another moderate political reform plan last year, but the restrictive reform framework Beijing rolled out last August eventually killed all his hopes on a so-called moderate approach. He formed a reading club comprising around 20 scholars and friends who met every two months and eventually co-wrote the book Reforming Hong Kong this summer. Democratic Party district councillor Au Nok-hin - part of the team who wrote a chapter illustrating how the pro-establishment camp was able to dominate district-level elections because of their limitless resources - agreed it was not the right time for pan-democrats to meet Beijing officials again. Democrat leaders raised eyebrows in August by meeting Feng Wei, deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, to discuss the city's governance after lawmakers rejected reform proposals in June - a move heavily criticised by Au. "You should have strong public support before going to negotiate [with Beijing]. You should have a clear goal, not join dialogue simply for the sake of having a dialogue," he lamented. While the team of scholars has been holding talks to share their new discourse with others, Fong ruled out taking things a step further. "I still position myself as a scholar [and] have no ability to lead a movement," he said, dismissing the possibility of becoming the next Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the legal scholar who co-founded the Occupy movement. Au is contesting next month's district council elections in the Lei Tung I constituency, against Li Ka-ying and Wong Yun-kei.