How Chinese students are embracing our core values

April 17, 2015 15:09
A mainland Chinese student holds a placard that says "Thank you Hong Kong". A recent survey shows an overwhelming number of Chinese students embrace Hong Kong's core values and way of life. Photo: HKEJ

A recent survey of mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong has some remarkable results.

Perhaps the most significant is that 90 percent of the respondents admire Hong Kong's core values such as press freedom, government checks and balances and protection of private property.

And 80 percent said they will oppose "inappropriate government policies" in the mainland.

The survey was conducted by Roundtable, an academic research group, which interviewed 500 young Chinese studying in Hong Kong.

Unlike their counterparts in the mainland, these students had first-hand experience with last year's democracy protests.

About 43 percent said they agree with the protesters in their struggle for true democracy against 10 percent who do not.

And given a chance to vote in a democratic election, they would take it.

Are we seeing the first signs of a tipping point in the mindset of Chinese students about Hong Kong?

Probably. The survey results tell us these students are embracing our values and way of life.

They believe these should not be an obstacle to Hong Kong's integration with China.  

Those keen to conclude might say these students are sending a signal to the Chinese authorities that they won't be easily swayed anymore by communist propaganda.

They could be saying enough is enough.

Having seen the importance of an open and transparent society, they would want nothing less in the mainland.

That reminds us of the late 1980s when young university students in Beijing launched a campaign to demand reform only to be crushed in a bloody suppression on June 4, 1989.

But whether the small embers that are being lit in Hong Kong by Chinese students will fire a similar sentiment among their peers in the mainland remains to be seen.

China can put out these small fires before they spread as it has shown in suppressing Hong Kong's democratic development.

We can assume Beijing knows what these students are doing and it has figured out how to deal with them when the time comes.

And whatever action it takes, young Hong Kong people can glean more insights into Beijing's thinking -- not that they don't already know enough.

Meanwhile, they're keeping up the pressure on the Hong Kong government over political reform in the run-up to the 2017 chief executive election.

At the same-time, pro-democracy activists are watching vulnerable pan-democrat legislators who are being targeted by a government desperate to win enough votes to pass a Beijing-backed election framework.

Joshua Wong, founder of student group Scholarism and a key figure in last year's street protests, is urging Hongkongers to launch a new round of civil disobedience if pan-democrats renege on their promise to reject the proposal.

Hong Kong students who consider the struggle for true democracy the fight of their lives are likely to heed the call, perhaps to the same extent they responded to last year's protests.

They are further along than their Chinese counterparts in challenging Beijing's grip on their future.

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EJ Insight writer