It’s been less than two decades since Britain finalized the transfer of its former colony Hong Kong back to Chinese Rule. Already, scores of people are losing faith in Beijing’s ability to protect the city’s civil liberties and democracy under the “One country, two systems” policy.
Some are calling for greater autonomy while others, especially young people, are rallying for independence from China. Both sentiments were expressed during Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, which saw 79 days of street protests against Chinese rule.
Young people comprised a bulk of the crowds. Recently, Hong Kong University’s student magazine Undergrad published a manifesto calling for independence by 2047.
“The Umbrella Revolution was our loudest cry,” the editorial read. “We thought naïvely that we could win some political concessions. We didn’t. Now we know that the movement for democracy is behind us, as we usher in the movement against authoritarian rule.
“We demand that Hong Kong become an independent, sovereign state recognized by the United Nations, the building of a democratic government and the drafting of a Hong Kong Constitution by all the people.”
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is not too fond of the idea.
“Hong Kong has always been part of China since ancient times,” Leung said. “It will not change after 2047.”
Marcus Lau, who penned the manifesto along with 11 other students, is unfazed.
“At the moment, Hong Kong doesn’t have the conditions for independence,” he told The New York Times. “That is precisely why we need to develop them.”
During last month’s regional election, Edward Leung, (no relation to Hong Kong’s chief executive) won 15 percent of the votes. He had been running on a platform for greater self-determination and his performance solidified the confidence of supporters even though he didn’t win.
Before the election, Leung led a protest against a crackdown on vendors during Lunar New Year. These vendors are often seen as symbolic of Hong Kong tradition. The demonstrations quickly turned violent and erupted into nightlong battle with police.
Chinese officials called the riots acts of “radical separatism.”
When Lau was asked whether he was a speratist, he had this to say.
“If the calls for self-determination of the Catalonians from Spain, Scots from the United Kingdom and Taiwanese from China are separatist,’’ he said, “then I’m one, too.”