SMILE: Horace Chin, the philosopher-king of localism

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HT’s Social Media Influencers and Leaders (SMILE) series continues with the man who wrote the book that sparked the localism, then independence movement.

Horace Chin (陳雲根) (photo provider), aka Wan Chin (陳雲), is considered a dangerous man for his radical ideas and their attractiveness to many in Hong Kong. He will run for LegCo in September on an independence/localist platform. Read the background on him here.


1.Why are you incorporating your Facebook posts and notes into chapters of the popular and controversial book Hong Kong as a City-State?

Chin: I started using Facebook in 2009, and originally I just shared articles and commentaries about literature and anecdotes that I wrote for Mingpao and Hong Kong Economic Journal at that time. Many netizens or ‘friends’ of Facebook liked my words and thus my readership in Facebook was created.

Things changed when the policy papers of Study on the Action Plan for Livable Bay Area of Pearl River Estuary and North East New Territories New Development Areas Planning and Engineering Study were each released then,showing the Hong Kong-China border is going to be dissolved. It was the time I started commenting the policy papers as well as Hong Kong politics in my Facebook account. The book (first published in November 2011) Hong Kong as a City-State is the summary of my thoughts in the form of Facebook posts and notes, as well as the discussions with my Facebook friends.

Since 2011, controversies like doubly non-permanent resident pregnant (DNRP) women giving birth in Hong Kong, the Dolce & Gabbana photo ban and Kong Qingdong incident sparked fury in the Internet, provoking netizens in Hong Kong Golden Forum (the most popular Internet forum in Hong Kong). They borrowed from the ideas in my Facebook account and created the ‘locust advertisement’  to denounce the behaviour of the Mainlanders. People started fiercely discussing the ideas of city-state, autonomy and sovereignty, and some of them rebuked my writing and the ideas in my book. This is how my book and I became well-known.


2.Do you agree, as many people (especially pan-dem figures and supporters) say, that you pretend to be a madman to excuse your radical language on your Facebook account?

Chin: I am not crazy, but they are.  What I propose is just to “fence China and Hong Kong off” (中港區隔), but not Hong Kong independence.


3.Do you use other social media other than Facebook? Why or why not?

Chin: No, I only use Facebook as I need a concentrated way to spread my ideas and create theories, and Facebook equipped with interactive functions that fit my purpose. Another reason is Facebook is good at fertilising high quality discussion and communication, which Twitter is weak at.

For WeChat and Weibo, of course I never use them.


4.How many hours do you spend per day managing your Facebook account? Do you have any helpers?

Chin: I take 2 hours everyday to answer the enquiries or questions of my Facebook friends, read the posts shared by them and daily news, and write notes and posts.

I often manage my account by myself, but sometimes I will leave it to my assistants. Also, I will not tell you how many Facebook account assistants I have as it is a “political secret” (政治機密).   


5.How do you view the relationship between new forms of social movement and the emergence of social media?

Chin: The popularisation of social media in social movements is the result of the police regularly abusing power, and the mass media mostly leaning toward the pro-Beijing camp. Social media provides much more room for people to exchange ideas. At the same time, the political suppression of freedom of speech forces the discussion of theories and action-planning to be conducted in Telegram, Firechat and other secretive mobile communication apps.

A benefit is that social media helps people to form groups to voice their opinion and have follow-up action on particular issues. The downside is that it is easy to incur the nuisance of the 50 Cent Party (五毛黨, meaning the Internet commentators hired by Chinese government).


6.Do you think  Hong Kong will eventually become an independent state? Will the 2047 issue of Hong Kong be solved?

Chin: Whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) likes it or not now, Hong Kong will be an independent state on one day. By looking at the unusual media attention, especially the official media Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), given to the first press conference launched by Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), I can tell it is the order of CCP to give a high profile to the HKNP spokesman… in order to to secretly promote Hong Kong independence. (When pressed, Mr Chin refused to comment on the logic of why Beijing would do this).

For the issue of 2047, once the localists are elected in the coming LegCo election in September, they will propose a bill to solve the problem of 2047 (he denies to explain the bill in detail) that no LegCo member will dare to oppose.


7.Everybody knows that you are going to end your 7-year tenure as an Assistant Professor of Department of Chinese in LingU in mid-August because of your radical political stance. How do you feel?

Chin: I can only say the President (of LingU Leonard Cheng (鄭國漢)), who received the order from Chief Executive CY Leung (梁振英) (Chancellor of LingU as well), is “stupid” (愚蠢). I can now totally involved in politics without any constraints.


8.Your pen-name ‘陳雲’ is also the name of Chen Yun (陳雲), a conservative CCP patriarch in the era of Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平). Is that by design?

Chin: Yes.

Born in Hong Kong, his writing reveals that his father, a son of a Southeast Asian Chinese diaspora family, worked as a cadet in Xining (in Qinghai Province) before being exiled to the rural villages during the Anti-Rightist Movement in 1957. According to the book, his father later on migrated to Hong Kong and settled down in Yuen Long.