Following Hong Kong’s most violent riots in years, the Chinese government is blaming the mayhem on “radical” separatists who want to divide China.
And some people are ok with it.
Among them is Edward Leung, 24, of the group Honk Kong Indigenous. The aim of Leung’s group is to push for the unlikely solution of an independent Hong Kong, and to challenge Mainland China’s influence in the city. He is among dozens of people charged in connection to the riots that took place on Feb. 8, during Lunar New Year celebrations in Mong Kok district.
“If history decides we’re culpable for the violence, so be it,” Leung told the New York Times. “But, if we manage to achieve self-government, or even build a nation of our own, what happened in Mong Kok would be called a revolution.”
For Leung, pace had its chance. And it failed.
His group emerged following the so-called Umbrella Movements in 2014, in which peaceful demonstrations failed to achieve universal suffrage.
Now, Leung says violence may be the answer.
The latest riots injured more than 80 officers and protestors.
They began when reports were coming out about government inspectors preventing vendors from selling items in the streets of Mong Kok. Authorities typically turn a blind eye when they see vendors selling items such as fish balls on city streets, a common sight especially during Lunar New Year celebrations.
After the news, Hong Kong Indigenous mobilized its supporters via social media to “protect” the vendors. Clashes soon erupted between protestors and police. Violence escalated when protestors began hurling bricks at officers who responded with batons and pepper spray. Sometimes, they even returned bricks.
At one point, an officer under attack fired live ammunition into the air—a rare sight for a region accustomed to peaceful protest.
City officials also said protestors were carrying plastic shields into the city.
Leung was rallying protestors with a loud speaker before his arrest. He says about 20 of the 69 people arrested in connection with the clashes are affiliated with his group.
Still, analysts believe Leung is fighting for a fantasy.
“The courageous young people of Hong Kong need to read and understand the nature of politics and the political system in the People’s Republic of China if they want to get anywhere in defending Hong Kong rights,” suggests Chinese studies Professor Steve Tsang. “Politics is the art of the possible.”
Leung may be looking in the right direction. He is running for the city legislature in a by-election next weekend.
He plans to call for a desalination plant to limit Hong Kong’s dependence on water from mainland China, and discouraging the use of Mandarin in schools.
“We must develop and reinforce a local identity, to draw a line between us and others,” Leung told the Times.