Hong Kong’s 2016 Legislative Council election reached its climax last week. Political analysts say the participation of “localist” candidates has added new variables to the long-running duel between the pro-establishment and “pan-democratic” camps, making it the most complex election since Hong Kong’s handover to the People’s Republic of China.
A recent poll conducted by the Hong Kong Research Association showed that 25.1 percent of respondents regarded “Constitutional Development and Governance” as their top concern, followed by 20.8 percent favoring “Land and Housing”, and 15.1 percent “Economic Development”. And among the overriding political issues, “Hong Kong independence” is the most serious topic.
Why is this so?
The contributing factors are complicated but it’s generally agreed that a major cause is the emergence of some younger voters who hold different views from the older generations as they attempt to change the city’s political landscape through any means at their disposal regardless of their legality.
The older generations have experienced different stages of Hong Kong’s political development including the Sino-British negotiations in the 1980s, the signing of the Joint Declaration, the drafting of the Basic Law, and Hong Kong’s return to China. The post-80s and -90s generations simply cannot appreciate the tremendous economic, social and political progress achieved since the handover.
Because of the dominant Western values in their lives, many of them harbor a disdainful, if not hostile, attitude toward the Chinese mainland and are unable to accept its imperfections. The situation is further complicated by the mainland’s accelerated growth while Hong Kong stagnates, creating frictions in the integration between them. Some young Hong Kong people find this situation hard to stomach and lashed out at the visiting mainlanders to let off steam.
Such antagonism gradually festered, bringing suspicions against the Basic Law and the principle of “One Country, Two Systems”. In their simplistic misunderstanding of the constitutional relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong, the most extreme elements among them began asking, “Why can’t we control our own future?” and “Why must we act according to the Basic Law?” Some even broached the idea of separatism.
Recently, several separatist organizations even threatened to create “localist concern groups” in secondary schools to push for “Hong Kong independence” and distribute propaganda leaflets in and outside schools. And in just a fortnight or so these so-called “localist concern groups” have spread to 17 secondary schools.
A closer examination reveals that many of these activists are unemployed social misfits and inclined to sympathize with the “Taiwan independence” and “Tibetan separatism” elements. Although still small in numbers, with social network connections like Facebook, as well as campus magazines and student association activities, their ideas seem to have gained some support in schools and universities.
Since today’s youth will be tomorrow’s leaders, and since “Hong Kong independence” will bring unprecedented calamity to Hong Kong, we must stop the spread of this sinister idea before it gets out of hand.
First, the next Chief Executive must prioritize developing Hong Kong’s economy and livelihood to alleviate the hardship of the people and to give priority to resolving young people’s issues on education, employment, entrepreneurship, and home ownership. Only then can the current tense and confrontational atmosphere now pervading our society be eased.
Second, if any candidate advocating “Hong Kong independence” is elected to LegCo, the returning officer must lodge an election petition in accordance with relevant laws and regulations to invalidate his/her LegCo membership.
Third, the Hong Kong judiciary and law enforcement authorities should employ appropriate legal measures to neutralize “Hong Kong independence” activities. Schools should also discipline students and teachers who incite “Hong Kong independence”. It is worth noting that a recent online survey by Et Net and Sky Post showed that as many as 82 percent of the public support the Education Bureau’s proposal to cancel the registration of teachers involved in such incitement.
Fourth, our schools should strengthen the study of history to instill into our students national pride, ensuring that they are familiar with China’s glorious ancient culture and the phenomenal progress both the mainland and Hong Kong have achieved in the last three decades.
Fifth, Hong Kong leaders must do their best to put in practice the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, and not just pay it lip service. While we must maintain our uniqueness, we must also accept that the central government is our ultimate political leader.
Sixth, we must firmly clamp down on those who openly advocate “Hong Kong independence” under the pretext of freedom of speech. It must be pointed out that even in the most liberal of democracies there are constraints on such freedom. You obviously cannot call for the division of a country citing such freedom. No other country in the world would allow their sovereignty and territorial integrity to be compromised.
Finally, Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance Section 18 forbids any Hong Kong organization to have contact with foreign and Taiwan political groups or accept their funding. This law must be enforced.
The author is an independent scholar and freelance writer. She is also the founder and president of the China-US Friendship Exchange Inc.