24 October 2016
Young activists come face to face with the police at a protest in Mong Kok during the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Photo: Bloomberg
Young activists come face to face with the police at a protest in Mong Kok during the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Photo: Bloomberg

Generation Z speaks out on HK, China and 2047

“If Hong Kong nativism is wishful thinking, then platitudes like ‘democracy for China’ sound more like squaring the circle. A drop of clean water can only be devoured in a pool of sewage. That is exactly why Hong Kong cannot change China.”

Those are the words of a young Hongkonger named Henry. Born in August 1997, he is now a medical student at the University of Hong Kong.

In an interview with the Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly, Henry admits that he couldn’t have said those words just three years ago.

Some are preparing for a violent revolution

As he grew up, he considered himself a patriot.

But in high school, his view of China changed after he came across books about the Great Famine of 1959-1961 and the labor camps during the Cultural Revolution.

His political awakening instilled in him a fear of Communism.

Throughout the 2012 protests against government’s plan to launch National Education in all schools, Henry participated as a volunteer for Scholarism, the leading light of student resistance and the predecessor of the new political party Demosistō.

Though the mass demonstrations forced the embattled Leung Chun-ying administration to abolish a mandatory curriculum and allow schools to determine whether to launch the subject or not, Henry said the protest was a failure.

“Schools are instilling patriotism, love for the Communist Party, among students in a more covert way, and the Education Bureau is still steadfast in using Mandarin (Putonghua) to teach the Chinese Language subject,” he said.

“When I hear that pupils are still talking in Putonghua after school, I feel Cantonese and our local identity are in deep peril.”

The 2014 Umbrella Movement further cemented Henry’s resolve.

“When I see people, wearing goggles and helmets, block the road in Mong Kok with makeshift barricades made of bamboo and timber and the fierce clashes in the streets, I told myself that there is no turning back for Hong Kong, when just a few years ago pepper spray may be the most ‘powerful’ weapon in police operations. I guess next time rubber bullets may be fired.”

Henry now makes no bones about his anti-China stance: he advocates Hong Kong independence as the only way out for the territory, including its pursuit of democracy.

“It’s hard for me to imagine what will happen in 2047 when today’s cross-border relations are already nearing a bursting point. If we sit idle, then there will be no Hong Kong in 2047.

“The right timing for Hong Kong independence can be when uprisings erupt in China, the party’s infighting gets out of control or even when there is a war between China and the United States. You can’t rule these out in the next few decades.”

Henry said he was told that some groups in the city have been preparing for a future revolution. “They are valiant or radical, whichever way you like to call them, and they are even preparing physically, like in fighting clubs.”

But Henry said he dares not to be on the front should there be a violent revolution. “I will take part as a doctor for first aid on the scene.”

No democracy for HK even when there’s democracy in China

The 19-year-old, Canada-born Jerry is now a sophomore student in economics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

He never regards himself as a Chinese and even doesn’t bother applying for a home return permit, the document required for travel to the mainland.

In the interview, he insisted on using China to refer to the mainland.

A member of the CUHK students’ union, Jerry was one of the organizers of the June 4 forum this year that was part of the call to boycott the candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, with the most vocal chorus on campus being “democracy for China has nothing to do with Hong Kong”.

“Old-line democrats’ illusion of ‘democratic reunification with China’ has long been shattered. I found through my contacts with Chinese that they hate Hongkongers, especially in the cyber world, and even when there is democracy in China, they won’t give it to Hong Kong while hatred is there.”

Jerry said separatists like him have to thank Leung Chun-ying as he is the “father of Hong Kong independence”.

“For instance, only after his attack at a book titled ‘Hong Kong Nationalism’ (香港民族論) in his Policy Address, calling it a fallacy, did I begin to read the book.

“And, there would have been no Umbrella Movement and Hong Kong nativism had it not been for his administration’s crackdown and firing of tear gas.”

He said he may become a full-time social activist after graduation and is keen to see a revolution before 2047, even not a bloodless one, as otherwise the cost of doing nothing is even bigger.

Love the country means love the party

Titus, born in March 1997 and also a CUHK student, told the Monthly that his father, an evangelist, once gave up the chance to immigrate to Australia as he wanted to carry out missionary work in China and advocated democracy for the nation.

This upbringing influenced Titus a lot, until the Umbrella Movement.

“I began to realize that love for country has long been hijacked by the Communist Party and the Chinese identity nowadays only means citizen of the People’s Republic of China and national security is actually the security of the party.

“History textbooks in high school are written with the kind of dogma and political correctness like territorial integrity and reunification are paramount to a nation and thus the well-being of its people. But in China’s history, the period when all thoughts and philosophies were able to flourish was always when the country was split, like during the Warring States period.”

Tutus’ major is history and political science.

He even has an idea for Hong Kong to survive: to learn from Finland.

Finland was merely a dependency of the former Soviet Union and it avoided open revolt against Moscow for the sake of its own existence.

Ultimately, it has outlived the Communist regime after the latter’s 1989 collapse.

Maybe Hong Kong needs to seek some tactical compromise, given the disproportionate mismatches in size and population between the two places.

“But at crucial junctures the government must have the guts to face up to the north, like in the booksellers crisis and Beijing’s political bullying. But the Leung administration is simply a puppet.”

This article appeared in the July issue of the Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Beijing has to reflect on why many young Hongkongers, especially those born after the 1997 handover, are not exactly fond of China. Photo: Bloomberg

Demonstrators rebuild a barricade near the Central Government Offices in the 2014 protest. Some of them have been preparing for more confontational rallies in future. Photo: Bloomberg

Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly

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