21 October 2016
An online poster (Inset) invites people to join the conversation about Hong Kong independence. Photos: Hong Kong National Party/Facebook
An online poster (Inset) invites people to join the conversation about Hong Kong independence. Photos: Hong Kong National Party/Facebook

Will ethnicity argument work for pro-independence party?

After ducking criticism from Beijing and the Hong Kong government, the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) came back swinging to give its pro-independence agenda a new push.

On Monday, it launched an online campaign to boost its ranks, inviting “like-minded” Hongkongers to create an environment conducive to a discussion about independence.

Prospective members are being asked on application forms what they think of the idea.

At the same time, HKNP is hiring volunteers from all five political constituencies ahead of the Legislative Council elections in September.   

But until now, the party won’t say how it plans to go about achieving Hong Kong independence, besides saying it’s committed to using “all methods” to fulfill its goals.

It’s the closest it has come to probing the limits of the Communist Party but it has not taken any material steps toward the overthrow of the Beijing-appointed Hong Kong administration.

Instead, it’s encouraging people to revisit history and study the ethnic imperative for an independent Hong Kong.   

HKNP opened a new thread in the ongoing debate and staked its whole argument on Hong Kong’s “unique ethnicity”.

That shifts the discussion to a historical context from a purely political perspective.

Now pro-independence advocates have a more compelling case to engage the public in a wider and more serious conversation.

Whether they actually get it right is another matter entirely but in their minds, the historical argument is worth pursuing.

It states that Hong Kong emerged as a distinct ethnic entity during 1841 to 1997 without any involvement by mainland China.

That “unique ethnicity” is the foundation of Hong Kong’s success.

The influx of Chinese immigrants has forced Hong Kong to defend its interests and fight for survival — so the argument goes.

No doubt HKNP did a lot of work to come up with this line of reasoning.

But it’s dead in the water unless it can attract enough eyeballs to turn it into a mainstream public issue, hence the need for a massive information campaign.

The government is well aware it’s not illegal to discuss or study Hong Kong history.

HKNP will insist this is an academic exercise, not a political action

But ultimately, it wants to arrive at a political conclusion — that ethnically, Hong Kong and mainland China have nothing in common and should be allowed to co-exist separately.   

Already, pro-Beijing forces are lining up behind an effort to define the limits of any discussion of Hong Kong independence — if that would be allowed at all.

There’s talk of a red line or trip wire that could shut the whole thing down at a moment’s notice.

Of course, the government has more powerful tools at its disposal than it will ever need to nip it in the bud.

It could fast-track the mothballed national security bill and pack it with enough punch to wallop HKNP and its allies into irrelevance.

Which is why, if nothing else, the group hopes to keep the fight alive by taking it through the wringer of Legco politics.

Never mind that the odds are stacked against it. 

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EJ Insight writer

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