Hong Kong Nationalism student editors: Not advocating independence, but it’s an option

Harbour Times exclusive event
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At a Harbour Times exclusive event, three out of the four student editors who contributed to the student publication Hong Kong Nationalism, explained what the book was all about – in English.

After being singled out for spreading ‘fallacies’ by the Chief Executive in his Policy Address, the authors of Hong Kong Nationalism had some explaining to do.  So they did to Harbour Times readers.

Student editors Brian Leung Kai-ping (梁繼平), Jack Li Kai-tik (李啟迪), and Jamie Cho Hiu-nok (曹曉諾), explained to an audience of Harbour Times followers that there was no hidden agenda to promote Hong Kong’s independence from China, but that they instead wanted to contribute to the academic discourse on Hong Kong’s identity and implications of that notion.

The act of openly criticising a student publication was unprecedented in Hong Kong, let alone in a policy address.

The book was relatively unknown beyond academic circles until the Chief Executive singled it out in the Policy Address last week (read here). CY Leung seemed to hint that the book, which was published under the official publication of the University of Hong Kong Student Union, Undergrad, was advocating a dangerous brand of independence, asking political figures with close ties to the leaders of the student movement to “advise them against putting forward such fallacies”. The act of openly criticising a student publication was unprecedented in Hong Kong, in a policy address or elsewhere.


The most important question was of course, whether this book intended to promote the idea that Hong Kong should be independent from China. The editors said no.

“I don’t think the content in the book are promoting independence. I don’t think there’s a hidden agenda from the authors to promote independence,” said Li, author of the third essay in the book and its Editor-in-Chief. “But we can’t control it’s impact. It is not our intention to promote independence and there is no hidden agenda to do so.”

we can’t control it’s impact.

However, Leung, author of an essay and one of two prefaces in the book, does think that the idea will grow, and might become a “substantive option” for Hong Kong people in the future.

Leung believes that independence might become a more feasible option under two situations. First, if the current communist regime breaks down like the Soviet Union. He admitted this was a huge IF that no one will be able to predict. According to Leung, the more substantive problem that Hong Kong will inevitably have to face, is the end of the current One Country Two Systems arrangement, which expires in 2046.

“Around 2030, we’ll have to negotiate again. The previous negotiations excluded Hong Kong people, because [Hong Kong] was a lacking of a strong sense of community. But Hong Kong people are different now, and will not let the Communist party decide for them,” Leung explains. “Independence now is not a practical option, but perhaps by then it will become a more substantive option. The question of whether Hong Kong people will want to go on playing with the CCP or become an independent state will become more vivid when we come to that end.”

The Policy Address

The book was an expansion on an earlier issue of Undergrad, adding five essays on the topic by esteemed scholars including an associate professor from John Hopkins University. 600 copies were sold in the first week,when it was released in September. Around 1,300 more were sold steadily between September to December, but the discussion was mostly confined to intellectual circles.

The question of whether Hong Kong people will want to go on playing with the CCP or become an independent state will become more vivid when we come to that end.

On the morning of the policy address, Leung had already been warned by friends reading pro-establishment papers that promotion of secessionist ideas would be criticised by the Chief Executive in his annual policy address. Pre-Policy Address stories singled out Undergrad as the CE’s target.

What he didn’t expect was for the matter to be addressed right from the start. The speech condemning the advocacies of the book was placed just before the end of the introduction. “It became a very CCP (Chinese Communist Party) style ideological confrontation,” admitted Leung.

As to what the CE’s intentions were, Leung speculated that it was a scare tactic against the young editors. “The ones who stood at the front of the Umbrella Movement and “ate up” all the pepper spray and batons, were all teenagers and many of them were my friends and classmates. The government has to figure out what went wrong when a whole generation who are willing to do these things at the expense of their bodies and their futures,” shared Leung. “So they try to frighten the student movement, to avoid another Umbrella Movement that might stir up [students] from different universities. It sends a message to us not to do or write anything radical.”

it was a scare tactic

In an interview after the event, Leung also thought the CE was trying to place the Occupy Movement under a secessionist banner by publicly tying them together in his speech.

Since the CE’s policy address, the remaining stock has sold out and a new batch of 3,000 will be shipped to bookstores by Thursday.

Either the Chief Executive and his team did not realise the controversy would spur further sales and propagation of these ideas he claims Hong Kong should be “alert” against, or this was an outcome he was willing to accept – or even sought.

Li thinks it was the latter.  His first reaction was that it would sell very well and it felt to him like the CE wanted citizens to read this book and discuss the topic. His reasoning behind this is quite interesting.

“If I had to guess his intentions, it seems like he wants to create a concrete independentist faction within the Hong Kong political sphere, so he has an enemy to attack. If he wants to seek a second term as CE, he needs to be trusted by the central government. In the process of defeating this enemy, he can claim allegiance,” speculated Li. “It’s a common trick for Communists [to create enemies].”

In other news

Ed Chin, who was the conveyor for the Financial group of the original Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP) organisation, announced a new advocacy group called 2047 Hong Kong Monitor. As OCLP was disbanded by Benny Tai and Co. following their surrender to the police, Ed Chin and professionals sympathetic with the democratic movement decided to found a new group. The new group seeks to monitor the development of Hong Kong leading up to 2047, which marks the end of the One Country, Two Systems arrangement.

2047 HK Monitor  members, David Webb, Ed Chin, Ching Cheong, and Sing Ming.

The group’s inaugural press conference was headlined by Ed Chin, shareholder activist David Webb, veteran journalist Ching Cheong, and scholar Professor Sing Ming. The group’s first activity was to send a petition of ten demands to various CCP leaders, including President Xi Jing-ping. Civic Party legislator Alan Leong and League of Social Democrat’s Avery Ng also made an appearance to support the group.