26 October 2016
Hong Kong and Beijing leaders must reflect on why independence topic has entered mainstream media discourse recently. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong and Beijing leaders must reflect on why independence topic has entered mainstream media discourse recently. Photo: HKEJ

2047: Who can predict what will happen?

The Hong Kong University Students’ Union’s official periodical, the Undergrad, recently published an article in which the author says the year 2047 will mark another crossroads in Hong Kong’s history. By that time Hong Kong people, he says, should seize the opportunity and rethink the future of our city and its relationship with China.

As the Sino-British treaty governing Hong Kong’s handover is set to expire, the city must consider declaring independence and seek the United Nations’ recognition as a sovereign state, and then build its own democratic government and draft its own constitution, the author suggests.

He believes it could be the best way out for our city as Beijing continues to deny us greater democracy, and as our civil rights and way of life are under serious threat due to the mainland’s increasingly aggressive interference in our affairs.

As expected, the article immediately came under heavy fire from the pro-establishment camp and pro-Beijing heavyweights such as Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee; Elsie Leung Oi-sie, former Secretary for Justice; and Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, chairman of the Hong Kong University Council and former Secretary for Education.

Dismissing the article’s proposals as “nonsense” and “ridiculous”, the heavyweights urged the people contemplating Hong Kong independence to stop wasting their time on something that is absolutely impossible and will never happen.

Then it was our Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s turn to weigh in on the matter.

Speaking to reporters, Leung pointed out with absolute conviction that Hong Kong has been a part of China since ancient times and that it will definitely remain so after 2047.

Now, while our leaders have dismissed the idea of Hong Kong’s independence as ridiculous and far-fetched, isn’t it equally ridiculous and far-fetched when a bunch of people tell you firmly that something will definitely not happen 30 years from now, when none of them will live to see it?

Do they all have a crystal ball at home through which they can predict what exactly will happen in the future?

Let’s imagine, if a Russian guy back in 1961 had told everybody around him that the Soviet Union would cease to exist by 1991, I bet people would definitely have called him insane and ridiculous.

Likewise, if a Chinese person had in, say, 1881 told his friends that the Qing Emperor would abdicate in 1911, I’m sure his buddies would definitely have dismissed that as nonsense as well.

Now, let’s push our imagination a little further.

If Mao Zedong had proclaimed at the first national congress and founding ceremony of the Chinese Communist Party — which took place at a non-descript urban apartment in July 1921 in Shanghai, and which saw the attendance of just 12 people including Mao — that the party would take power in around 30 years’ time, I bet his fellow party members who were at that meeting would probably have laughed at him in the way like Arthur Li laughed at the Undergrad.

Let’s bear in mind the fact that in 1921 there were less than a hundred registered Chinese Communist Party members across the entire China. 

As we all know now, all of the above “nonsensical” and “ridiculous predictions” have turned out to be true.

So who could tell — apart from God — what exactly is or is not going to happen 30 years from now?

Of course I understand that our prominent pro-Beijing figures, given the positions they hold and the prospect of midnight phone calls from Beijing, had no choice but to denounce the calls for Hong Kong’s independence without any delay.

However, they would be completely ignorant and naïve if they truly and faithfully believe that the status quo in Hong Kong — or even the mainland — would definitely remain intact in and beyond 2047. Do they really think they are Nostradamus or something?

The fact that the pro-independence discourse which used to be shrugged off by the overwhelming majority of the public in Hong Kong before the handover has now reached the mainstream media and is quickly gaining momentum indicates that something must have gone seriously wrong with the SAR government and Beijing’s policies towards Hong Kong over the past 20 years.

As a matter of fact, one could hardly have imagined in the 90s that the idea of Hong Kong seeking independence from China would one day become a legitimate topic up for serious discussion in local and even international media and quickly gain popularity among the younger generation in our city.

Instead of denouncing the idea and labeling those who advocate it as “separationists”, isn’t it time for our chief executive and his bosses in Beijing to reflect on what they have done to alienate the people of Hong Kong, especially the younger ones, so much over the past two decades?

And why independence sentiments appear to be gaining ground in Hong Kong, while 10 or 20 years ago the idea would have been dismissed out of hand by most people!

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