Hong Kong Independence Movement Is Open-Minded on Tactics

Hong Kong Independence Movement Is Open-Minded on Tactics
HKNP leader Andy Chan (陳浩天)

What you need to know

As one group of activists is acquitted over charges related to protests in Hong Kong, another vows to take up the fight.

A Hong Kong court yesterday found Nathan Law (羅冠聰), Albert Chan (陳偉業), Raphael Wong (黃浩銘) and Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) not guilty of police obstruction charges related to the Beijing White Paper protest in 2014.

Joshua Wong tweeted after the decision was delivered: “The result of this trial is already proof that it’s just a political prosecution!”

Wong and Law, who still face more serious charges and potential jail time related to the Umbrella Movement later in 2014, have since started a new political party focused on achieving Hong Kong self-determination by winning local and international political support rather than through continued civil disobedience.

“No matter whether it is the Umbrella Movement with non-violence or Fishball Revolution with violence, both movements achieved the same result: nothing changed,” Wong said in an interview with The News Lens International recently.

However, several groups disagree with Wong’s approach, including the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), which was formed earlier this year to advance the singular goal of full independence for Hong Kong.

HKNP leader Andy Chan (陳浩天) told TNLI in Hong Kong on Saturday that the group’s line — “by any means necessary” — is not a promise of violence, but a commitment to not “restrict ourselves.”

“The pan-democratic parties restrict themselves to not using any force or violence, but for us if we can achieve Hong Kong independence we are okay,” Chan says. “We can use a protest, speeches or sing a song, or even use violence. It is okay, as long as it can bring Hong Kong independence.”

Chan, speaking at a forum at Chinese University Hong Kong on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, alluded to the Irish Republican Army’s use of guerrilla warfare in Ireland.

“I used that as an example to talk about force,” he later told TNLI. “They used a regular army to fight against the British and it failed, so I suggest that maybe you can use guerrilla instead of a regular army.”

Hong Kong activist leaders on stage at Chinese University Hong Kong

Gauging support

HKNP, founded in March, is funded by individual contributions from supporters. The only measure of its support at present, albeit crude, is the 12,000 followers it has garnered on Facebook. That compares to two other activist parties founded in early 2015, Hong Kong Indigenous, which has more than 70,000 followers, and Youngspiration, which has almost 42,000. Wong’s more pragmatic Demosistō party has nearly 26,000 followers since launching in April, though Wong himself is followed by more than 300,000 people.

HKNP, Youngspiration and Hong Kong Indigenous have all been labelled “localist” organizations. For the more conservative elements in the territory's political establishment, the group is, collectively, synonymous with xenophobia.

HKNP’s supporters point to a Hong Kong’s Legislative Council by-election result in February showing that backing for "localists," and therefore perhaps independence, should not be disregarded. While the election was won by Civic Party's Alvin Yeung (楊岳橋), a pan-democratic candidate, with 160,880 votes, Hong Kong Indigenous spokesperson Edward Leung gained a 15% share with 66,524 votes.

Still, Chan says the term “localist” is not appropriate to describe the political spectrum in Hong Kong.

“Everyone can call themselves 'localist,' because they are in Hong Kong; everybody is selling themselves as 'localist.' I don’t think it is a very good definition” he says. “I think in the future it would be better that we used ‘independence,’ 'pro' or 'against,' to classify people.”

And Chan does not shy away from the rhetoric common in anti-China circles in Hong Kong. He talks about issues relating to Chinese nationals winning infrastructure tenders in Hong Kong, and the increased use of Mandarin, rather than the native Cantonese.

“Language is very important to a nation, so we have to secure or protect our language,” he says. “When I was in primary school we had no one in the whole school could speak Mandarin. Nowadays if you go on the street you can see many primary students they are talking in Mandarin very fluently with the northern accent.”

While Chan is concerned that time is critical in the fight for independence, he acknowledges that the party is in its early stages.

“Of course, we cannot achieve it at once,” he says. “We are building.”

More than 1,000 people are estimated to have attended the CUHK forum on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre