Marcus Lau: What Are the Hong Kong Separatists Thinking?

What Are the Hong Kong Separatists Thinking?
Written by Marcus Lau

Hong Kong - A brand new school year to many means another purchase of absurdly expensive textbooks, but school year in Hong Kong is not like ever before.

Followed by banning separatists figures like Edward Leung and Andy Chan Ho-tin from running the legislative council election, high school students advocating Hong Kong independence were prohibited from distributing flyers on campus. Chief Executive Chun-Ying Leung depicted the belief of Hong Kong independence as if it is drugs or swear words. Meanwhile, teachers face potential disqualification if they encourage discussion of the topic in the classroom. The question here is, where do these ideals of Hong Kong independence come from?

The last time Hong Kong appeared on headlines all over the world was two years ago when the Umbrella Revolution broke out. The 79-day occupation demanding democracy marked its failure when the police cleared up the occupation zones in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. The revolution did not leave Hong Kong people with nothing though. It enlightens youth of Hong Kong that Hong Kong would never gain genuine democracy under the sovereignty of China.

The end of the movement opens a new page for the political dynamics in Hong Kong. Young people started to organise for social resistance and elections. Varied from the path of the traditional democrats who adhere to a Chinese identity as well as China’s sovereignty on Hong Kong, the rising localists suggest that Hong Kong is an imagined community itself with its own culture and set of values and shall enjoy a self-determination right, especially when the constitution Hong Kong is adopting (i.e. Basic Law) is facing an expiry in 2047. In March this year, the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) was founded as the first political party that advocates Hong Kong independence. Later in August, when the Hong Kong government slammed the door for certain candidates, HKNP held a rally titled “Hong Kong independence”, over 10,000 people attended.

From a recent poll we can tell 17 percent of the Hong Kong population supports Hong Kong independence, and among the age group of 15-24, the support doubled at 40 percent. To the older generation, Hong Kong and China is like mother and son. To separatists, Hong Kong and China is in a broken marriage and Hong Kong is suffering from brutal domestic violence. Like much Taiwanese and Catalonian, youth wants to separate from China. They don’t see “One country, two systems” promised by the Sino-British Joint Declaration could guarantee Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy as written in the declaration when the political power rests mostly in the hands of the Chinese government.

Despite unprecedented repression on freedom of expression, a separatist movement is developing its way led by the generation that undergone the umbrella revolution. Foreseeably, the Chinese government would use any means to suppress the movement from spreading as any separatist movements would undermine the legitimacy of the Chinese government. However, the honesty of history never fails to reveal the truth that the harder the repression, the stronger the reaction.


Marcus Lau: Reflections & Analysis after Election

Reflections & Analysis after Election
Translated by Chen-t'ang 鎮棠, written by Marcus Lau Yee-ching (Former editor-in-chief, Undergrad, HKUSU) [1027, 05 Sept 2016]
Original: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1134648589937655&set=a.122206674515190.20330.100001775756809&type=3 

The outcome of the LegCo election is basically decided. [By the time of writing,] the accurate figures were not released, but looking at the seat distributions, there are some points worth looking at.

1 – The Election in HK Will Soon Become “Malaysian-style” Election
Please bear in mind that there are five candidates being screened out (Edward Leung, Chan Ho-tin, Nakade Hitsujiko, Chan Kwok-keung, Alice Lai) due to their political stances. So no matter what, this election is by no means a democratic one, but an unconstitutional election waiting to be overturned. Ridiculous things happened during the election campaign period showed that the election in Hong Kong will gradually be interfered and manipulated by the government in different ways. First, presiding officers of poll stations can take ballot boxes home, but the luggage boxes with ballot papers were not even sealed. On the election day, some voters saw others using a photocopy of HKID card to vote, some voters “were voted by others”, some votes were considered invalid as they were torn a bit; power outage was seen in a poll station in North District. During vote count period, a presiding officer delayed the vote count result (Kowloon Park station), and a station had some “extra fake votes” in the ballot boxes (Sheung Tak station, Tseung Kwan O), etc. The government has lots of ways to interfere elections. If there are LegCo elections in the future, they would be rather dim.

2 – New Social Activism Bloc is Formed
Three members from the new social activism bloc (or “Demosisto” bloc), Lau Siu-lai (Kowloon West), Eddie Chu Hoi-dick (NT West), Nathan Law (HK Island), won with higher percentages of votes. Three of them gained the most votes in the non-establishment camp in their constituencies, and this is quite surprising to everyone. “Demosisto” bloc supported self-determination and non-violent confrontation. It took a “left-leaning” stance  economically, supporting universal retirement protection and advocating social connections. However, this bloc failed to mention the crux of HK-China relationship, such as the approval right of One-way Permit and the welfare of new mainland immigrants. What do their higher percentages of votes symbolise? Since the Umbrella Movement in 2014, the rise of the new social activism bloc has shown a different image from other traditional activist parties, which emphasised on their connections with workers or the grass root. The young, fresh and reforming image of the new social activism bloc has gained lots of support from the “Umbrella Generation”. Both being first-timers in LegCo Election, “Demosisto” bloc outperformed Youngspiration, and perhaps this is what localists should reflect on. Nathan Law was more known after the Umbrella Revolution, while Eddie Chu has participated in the protest against the removal of Queen Pier back in 2006. Chu kept on revealing the collusion between “government, commercial sector, rural sector and triad gangs”, and Chu's connections and network can never be underestimated. However, Lau Siu-lai has few “groundwork” in her constituency. After “coordinating” with Oscar Lai in less than half a year ago, Lau won with over 30,000 votes, and this is worth noting [Translator's note: final votes obtained – 38,183]. 

With the entry of “Demosisto” bloc, the huge “leftist social activism industry chain” will return. With lots of resources from LegCo, the key would hinge on students' unions across different universities. Opinion leaders around this chain, such as Chow Po-chung and YC Chen, will also return, after a period of silence. For localists or independence supporters, it would be a challenge to strengthen the localist forces formed in the tertiary education sector in the past two years.

3 – More Fragmented Landscape in LegCo
With people recommended by Chinese Liaison Office entering the Council (Junius Ho, Eunice Yung, etc.), the forces of New Pro-Beijing Bloc (NT rural sector, Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong and New People's Party) will be more solid. During an interview with the press, Nathan Law said he will not participate in the pan-dem joint alliance and will be on his own. For localism camp, originally there was only one seat (Raymond Wong), but now there are 2 from Youngspiration (Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung) and 1 from Civic Passion (Cheng Chung-tai), totalling 3 seats. Although both camps had some arguments with each other, two organisations share the most similar minds among all first-timers, so it is believed that there are rooms for cooperation in the future. The pan-dem camp has not changed much, so I would not comment for now.

Fragmentation of the Council becomes the trend, and for now, I cannot foresee any figure who can unite people from establishment camp or non-establishment camp, so it is expected that there will be no major breakthrough in the Council for the coming four years. The core of Hong Kong politics will still be “from streets to Council”. With lots of blocs in the council, there will be more variables. I cannot tell whether it is a blessing or a curse as of now, but I believed that a change, no matter a better one or a worse one, must be done to change the current plight in Hong Kong.

4 – Pan-dem's “Backroom Deal” - VotSonar – Plays Vital Role

VotSonar was initially a joke due to its small amount of sample size. However, Apple Daily listed a “support/sacrifice” (S/S) list [棄保名單] from VotSonar and used its media influence to promote such list. Yet, such S/S list was only supported by around 40,000 users and these users do not even know how the list was calculated. No one really knows how the list was generated. When the list was all over Apple Daily, the list became an indicating S/S list for the entire Hong Kong. Many voters who have not vote around the evening voted according to the list. According to the S/S list for NT East, my friend's family gave three votes to separate candidates, Gary Fan, Ray Chan (Fast Beat) and Fernando Cheung. The influence of the S/S list was much stronger then the participants of VotSonar, and there are even suggestions to cast all votes for Slow Beat (Tam Tak-chi) in Kowloon East.

VotSonar has a great excuse – to send as many non-establishment candidates into the council as it can. It used precious votes to support pan-dem candidates, some of which may be at risk, eventually sacrificing localist candidates. Take Kowloon East as an example, as “78% voters do not want to vote for Wong Yeung-tat”, so the plan “does not have to consider Wong”. When this result was spread out by Apple Daily, voters only have to know they have to cast all votes to Slow Beat, but voters would not know Wong Yeung-tat was not considered by VotSonar. Same case for Raymond Wong, Baggio Leung and Horace Chin Wan-kan. This is absolutely misleading voters. Apple Daily has once and again supported pan-dem candidates by using its media influence. These pan-dem councillors are mostly on the position of sinecures. Three decades have passed, do we have more time to waste anymore?

Now, “quitting” strategy. Few days before the election day, Civic Party's Sumly Chan and Labour's Suzanne Wu quitted the election by ending their campaigns. Even if this cannot “transfer” votes, this can show that the situation of the pan-dem is on the brink. With VotSonar S/S list, swing votes will go to non-establishment camp naturally. Candidates from the pan-dem camp quitted nearly at the same time, but is that just a coincidence? The last candidate who quitted was Kwan Wing-yip from Neo Democrats, and he said the “withdrawal” was the “darkest day in his political career”. Sumly Chan said he has spent every cent of his own for the election, and has no idea to pull out. Suddenly he had a press conference with other candidates on the same day. If you link the financial sources behind these parties, you can understand why there is such “collective pull-out”.

VotSonar-Apple Daily-S/S strategy integrated together and boosted pan-dem candidates. The outcome showed that those ranked lower in election polls, such as Ray Chan (Fast Beat), Nathan Law, Ted Hui and Fernando Cheung, got more votes than polls would have expected. It showed that the plan worked out, but the devil in the detail is as dirty as pro-Beijing camp's “number in the palm”.

5 –
I guess you can figure out how localist camp can reflect. But if I put it straight, I believe you will not listen, so I will leave it blank. The only thing I'd say is, we have chosen the easiest yet the most stupid way, and those who share similar ideas were harmed.

There are lots of other things that worth analysing, but I will leave that to others. I would like to encourage those who felt disappointed to this election, especially localists, “Pass on the torch. Never give up the faith. Keep the light burning.” (from The Grandmaster). I cannot say this election is a victory [to localist camp – translator's note], but I can still see the slightest hope in danger. We must not be frustrated, because, we are nothing but the only Hongkongers in the world. We are still the masters of this land.

The world will eventually belong to us.