Why Hong Kong independence, localism, nativism and recolonisation worry mainland China

Hongkongers face a crisis of identity almost 20 years into Beijing’s rule over former British colony

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 10:40pm

The proportion of Hong Kong people regarding themselves as “Hongkongers” as opposed to “Chinese” has almost doubled since July 2012.

The findings, according to ongoing polling conducted by the University of Hong Kong, coincided with the rise of localism, which gradually evolved into calls for self-determination and, later, independence, amid what critics perceive as increasing mainland interference in the city’s politics and way of life under the current administration led by Leung Chun-ying.

Leung himself shone a light on the matter almost 18 months ago

in his characteristically confrontational way. It provoked a backlash at the time.

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When he was reading out his third policy address, politicians and journalists were taken by surprise when Leung dedicated his opening paragraphs to what was at that time a little-known article in a student magazine circulated on the University of Hong Kong campus which called for self-determination for Hong Kong as a people distinct from mainlanders.

The students, Leung said, “have misstated some facts. We must stay alert.”

The statement soon became the most talked about subject, especially among lawmakers and officials.

Scholarism – the student-led body that championed the scrapping of plans for a national education curriculum – transformed into Demosisto in April this year with a view to pursuing “self-determination” for Hong Kong after 2047 – the end date of Beijing’s promise of 50 years without change.

That is not the only phrase used as a cover for discussion of independence.

Another popular term is localism or nativism. It is built on the belief that being local is the way to counter the mainlandisation of Hong Kong. Proponents include those in Hong Kong Indigenous, which is led by Legislative Council candidate Edward Leung Tin-kei.

But it was the creation of the Hong Kong National Party in March that touched Beijing’s nerves, the blunt name posing a direct threat to its sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Others, though, had other similarly novel ideas, one of which was “recolonisation” – a return to British rule.