One year ago, many people believed that Hong Kong independence was a totally false concept. One year later, because of different parties’ political manipulations, the issue of independence has been formally included in the public agenda in Hong Kong. There is no doubt that the Central and Hong Kong governments can make political decisions to distinguish friends (“loving the country, loving Hong Kong”) from enemies (localists and separatists), in their “struggle for overall jurisdiction” in Hong Kong. However, in Hong Kong’s open society, at least at the current stage, it is impossible to stop the growing discussion on localism, separatism, and independence within the community.
In fact, pressure from the government has made the localist voice louder: a record high turnout rate in the Legislative Council Election held on September 4, 2016. 58 percent or nearly 2.2 million voters cast their votes for 70 seats. The pro-localists won six seats with the support from nearly 20 percent or over 400,000 voters. Among these six newly-elected lawmakers, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick gathered 84,121 votes to become the “king of votes” in the election. This 38-year-old social activist who advocates democratic self-determination for Hong Kong is an independent candidate without major party backing. His votes were totally mobilized by a bottom-up campaign.
The election result indicates the increasing fragmentation, polarization, and radicalization in the city. Confronting localism and separatism from the fringes to the mainstream, the Central and Hong Kong governments have to compete for the hearts and minds of Hong Kong residents who hold these “radical thoughts.” It is time for Beijing and Hong Kong policymakers to unite Hong Kong residents, those working and living in mainland China particularly, with social rights and social citizenship.