Political Risers: Chan Ho-tin the steadfast independence advocate

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Against all odds, Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天) is confident that he will emerge as a winner in this Legco election – whether he is allowed to run or not.


For some, Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天) is a one-man vanguard daring to break the ultimate taboo; for others, he is no more than a fanatic calling for nonsense. Now, he is applying to run in the Legco New Territories West election. Whether his candidacy is approved or not by the Registration and Electoral Office (under the new Electoral Affairs Commission requirement), his attempt has already left a mark on Hong Kong’s fast-changing political landscape.

The political neophyte had never participated in a single protest or march before the Umbrella Movement. Soon, he graduated from a participant to activist, calling for an escalation of anti-government tactics. He also drove a movement to withdraw Polytechnic University’s membership from the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which was, among many other accusations, panned for its authoritative but deficient leadership in the Umbrella Movement.

 

Simple as that

“The decision to form a party to advocate Hong Kong independence was made even before the Legco New Territories East by-election gave rise to Edward Leung Tin-kei’s (梁天琦) popularity. Hong Kong Indigenous is not the party that can represent my stance,” Chan says. “For me, Hong Kong independence has already become the trend of the day, and securing independence is the only way to save the territory from these many problems we are now facing. How to achieve it, be it through a referendum or armed struggle, is not my concern.”

“The whole concept of localism is bound to fail as every one can claim that he or she is for the locals…[eventually] being a localist means nothing,” Chan puts. “It’s just that many people from the anti-establishment camp are still trapped by the mindset that China should still assert some sort of sovereignty over Hong Kong.”

 

Heads I win, tails you lose

Chan may be running for Legco, but it is more likely that his candidacy will be invalidated given his refusal to sign on the allegiance confirmation form and clarify his political stance at an Electoral Officer’s request.

“Getting into the Legco is of course the best scenario. But it isn’t that bad even if I’m disqualified as the government has already advertised Hong Kong National Party for me while creating a constitutional crisis for itself,” Chan explains. “It is rather clear that the government’s plan is to kick me and certain candidates out of the race, and it will do so even if I sign the confirmation form. So why bother in the first place?”

 

The force awakening

Chan is planning ahead to get Hong Kong people ready for independence when the time comes. In particular, the party is aiming to bring more professionals in different sectors to the camp. “We need these people to embrace a Hongkonger identity and contribute to our state-building efforts,” he proposes.

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As Chan recalls, he started questioning himself over his identity when he joined two exchange programmes to Shanghai and Sweden in late 2013 and early 2014 respectively. “The hosting university in Shanghai encountered an issue of settling exchange students from Hong Kong and Taiwan. They have different accommodations for local and overseas students, but, from their perspective, we are neither of the groups. So we ended up staying in a postgraduates’ dorm,” he narrated. “Then I was in Sweden, people always asked if I was from China when I introduced myself as ‘I am from Hong Kong’. That’s when I realised how serious I took [being perceived as mainland Chinese] as an offence.”

When asked if the party will engage with other localist groups to promote a Hongkonger identity, Chan says: “We’ll see as some of them may fall apart after the elections. But the trend is certainly going our way.”