19 March 2019
Demonstrators wave flags in a pro-independence rally in Hong Kong. Photo: WSJ
Demonstrators wave flags in a pro-independence rally in Hong Kong. Photo: WSJ

How our young men envision Hong Kong’s future

“We refuse to bow down/having learnt of our undoing and limits/we now want to raise matters that others daren’t/we now want to shout at the injustice that shrouds our city/we’d rather live in pain as we have opened our eyes/this generation will bring the issue of 2047 to the masses”.

This is an excerpt from “The Declaration of Hong Kong’s Youth Generation” that was published by Undergrad, the official magazine of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union, this week.

As the New Testament goes, young men will see visions, and old men will have dreams.

The latest issue of Undergrad, the final one compiled by the current editorial committee, contains ten commentaries that center around one theme: the declaration of the youth.

“Our 2047″, the last piece of the series, reveals the visions of our young men.

The year 2047 will unquestionably be theirs, as by then most members of the baby boom generation will have passed away and those of the Gen X (born between 1960 and 1979) will also retire.

The post-’80s and ’90s generation and those born after 2000, or the Millennials, will be Hong Kong’s pillars and leaders going forward.

“Never ever try to brainwash my kids!”

We still have vivid memories of how parents resolutely opposed the national education curriculum during the 2012 protests that forced the government to pull back its proposal.

Given the same values and parental responsibilities, it’s not hard to imagine that today’s young students will raise the stakes against Beijing when 2047 looms large, fearing that their kids in future will otherwise be put under the iron heel of the communist party.

In their pronouncement, the young people have put forth three demands:

1. Making Hong Kong an independent sovereign state recognized by the United Nations,
2. Forming a democratic government, and
3. Drafting Hong Kong’s own constitution.

This time, the long quest for democracy has been tied to attaining self-determination, and once the two objectives become one, the synergy is there. Prostrating before the communist party is never an option.

Having a constitution of our own would mean flouting of the Basic Law, pro-Beijing groups say. But the rationale of our students is that the document never had Hong Kong people’s mandate, as the right to interpret the document rests with Beijing.

The Basic Law has failed, time and again, to prevent disturbing incidents — like the disappearance of Hongkongers selling books critical of Beijing — from happening, and “one country, two systems” has long been in limbo.

When the society falls sick, there will always be calls from students for an awakening.

Leung Chun-ying’s stern remarks in his policy address notwithstanding, “Hong Kong Nationalism”, a book published by Undergrad two years ago was already loaded with references of separatism.

Within a span of just two years, it has taken root among the young to emerge as a loud and clear demand: Hong Kong independence.

Almost simultaneously, the Civic Party, now the third largest party in the Legislative Council, has echoed students’ sentiments in its 10th anniversary manifesto with key words such as autonomy and nativism.

In the face of the 2047 eventuality, Hongkongers must never allow themselves to be pushed aside again when the fate of the city is to be mapped out.

Yet when the Civic Party was founded in 2006, it stated its aim as “building a system, under the Chinese sovereignty, whereby Hong Kong people genuinely govern Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy”.

But now there’s new language, testimony to the changes which the party, and Hong Kong as a whole, is seeking and shattering the illusion of siding with Beijing.

The underlying cause of the schism is Beijing itself.

Hongkongers’ nationalism sentiments reached a peak in 2008, when China hosted the Summer Olympics, followed by a reversal since then.

What caused the dramatic U-turn of people’s hearts?

This is something that Beijing needs to give a serious thought.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 17.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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A banner seen during the 2014 Umbrella Movement calls for Hong Kong’s ‘liberation’ from China. Photo: WordPress

Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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