Localist groups (Hong Kong)
Localist groups, or localist and self-determination groups, are the various groups with localist ideologies in Hong Kong. It emerged from post-80s social movements in the late 2000s which centred on the preservation of the city's autonomy and local lifestyles and opposed the perceived growing encroachment of the Beijing government on the city's management of its own political, economic, and social affairs.
|Localist and self-determination groups|
Politics and government|
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Many of them have distinct point of view from pan-democrats, and advocate the Hong Kong people's right to self-determination, while milder elements advocate for greater autonomy while remaining part of China, and the most radical call for the return to British rule or full independence as a sovereign state. Certain right-wing localist groups also advocate for a more aggressive and militant stance against the mainland government in defending indigenous interests. For that reason, they are labelled as "radicals" and "separatists" by the Beijing government.
The localists gained significant traction following widespread protests in 2014 against the Chinese government's decision to pre-screen Chief Executive candidates before allowing them to be chosen by the general public in the 2017 election. Following these protests, a number of localist political parties were formed, organising protests and participated in Legislative Council elections. They won a total numbers of six seats (excluding Claudia Mo) with 19 per cent of vote share (excluding Claudia Mo and Gary Fan) in the 2016 Legislative Council election.
After the election, the left-wing localists Nathan Law and Lau Siu-lai (both consider as part of pro-democracy camp), as well as the right-wing localists Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching of Youngspiration, were unseated from the Legislative Council over the oath-taking controversy. Since 2019 Hong Kong protests, localists were largely absorbed into the broader spectrum of the pro-democracy camp, with the notable exception of Civic Passion, Hong Kong Resurgence Order and other fringe activists.
The localist groups emerged from the post-80s generation born in the 1980s, (Millennials in western terminology) social movements in the late 2000s. Many were inspired by the large-scale mass demonstration in 2003. 7.1 People Pile was one of the groups that came to exist after the demonstration. They were upset by rapid urban development which was sweeping away old neighbourhoods and communities. They were strongly opposed to the political and economic monopoly of vested interests, collusion between business and government and questioned the nature of the capitalist system in Hong Kong. Coinciding with the widespread Chinese patriotism at the time was several emerging conservation movements led by young activists, such as Christina Chan and Land Justice League, protesting against demolition of the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, Queen's Pier, and the buildings on Lee Tung Street (known as "Wedding Card Street") in 2006 and 2007. Protests against the construction of the Hong Kong section of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou (XRL) escalated in 2009 and 2010 and established a new high point of the localist movement.
Right shift of localism
The failure of the peaceful anti-XRL protests damaged the reputation of the left-leaning moderate activists. Some turned to a more radical approach. Scholar Chin Wan published the book, On the Hong Kong City-State in 2011 which triggered fierce public debate and was popular among the young generation. In the book, Chin suggests abandoning the hope for a democratic China and positions the democracy movement in a "localist" perspective, in order to counter Beijing's "neo-imperialist" policies toward Hong Kong. It analysed the potential threat of the influx of mainland tourists and immigrants to the established institutions and social customs of Hong Kong, which he considered likely to be part of a colonisation scheme by Beijing, including the increasing use of Mandarin Chinese and Simplified Chinese in daily use and schools. Since then, it has created a paradigm shift on Hong Kong local consciousness from the left-wing discourse of reinterpreting colonial history, cherishing the inclusive and diverse nature of the Hong Kong culture to the right-wing discourse of anti-Chinese sentiment and nostalgia for British rule. Chin also tells his Hong Kong Autonomy Movement followers to use violent action as the means for defending Hong Kong's autonomy.
At the same time, the localists are hostile toward the pan-democracy camp, as they perceived the pan-democrats' cosmopolitanism as unrealistic and their wish for a democratic China at Hong Kong's expense, which they disagreed with the "Chinese patriotic" theme in the annual candlelight vigil for the Tiananmen protest of 1989 organised by the pro-democracy Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. They are also dissatisfied with the perceived ineffectiveness of the pan-democrats as the opposition party for the past 20 years. On the other hand, the right-wing populist tendency of the localist movements was condemned as "xenophobic" and "nativist" by mainstream left-wing activists and the government. He suggested building Hong Kong into an autonomous city-state, merging the British culture with a restored Chinese culture. The conflict between the left and the right wings of the movement resulted in great disunity of the whole democratic cause.
Umbrella Revolution and aftermath
The 79-day large-scale occupation protest was perceived to boost the local consciousness of the Hongkongers. Many new localist labelled "Umbrella groups" were formed after the protest. notably Youngspiration and Hong Kong Indigenous. Youngspiration took part in the 2015 District Council election with many other newcoming "Umbrella soldiers" and eventually won one seat out of nine candidates. Hong Kong Indigenous is notable for its protest style, in which it calls for a "militant" approach with "some kind of clash", as opposed to pan-democrats' "gentle approach" of non-violent civil disobedience.
There were also disaffection toward the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), the leading figure in the protests, resulted in a great split in the student federation. The localists launched a campaign quitting the HKFS. By the end of 2015, four of the eight student unions consisting the federation, the Hong Kong University Students' Union (HKUSU), the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students' Union (HKPUSU), the Hong Kong Baptist University Students' Union (HKBUSU) and the City University of Hong Kong Students' Union (CityUSU), broke up with the HKFS.
The Legislative Council by-election in New Territories East on 28 February 2016 was a milestone of the localist movements, as it was the first attempt for them to contest for the Legislative Council under localist banner. Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous received a better-than expected result in the New Territories East by-election in February 2016 by taking more than 66,000 votes and gaining about 15 percent of the total votes. After the election, Leung claimed localism had gained a foothold as the third most important power in local politics, standing side by side with the pan-democracy and pro-Beijing camps.
2016 Legislative Council election
A day after the 2016 New Territories East by-election, three localist groups, Wong Yuk-man's Proletariat Political Institute, Wong Yeung-tat's Civic Passion and Chin Wan's Hong Kong Resurgence Order, announced to run in the September Legislative Council election under the alliance "CP–PPI–HKRO". On 10 April 2016. six localist groups Youngspiration, Kowloon East Community, Tin Shui Wai New Force, Cheung Sha Wan Community Establishment Power, Tsz Wan Shan Constructive Power and Tuen Mun Community, formed an electoral alliance under the name "ALLinHK" planned to field candidates in four of the five geographical constituencies with the agenda to put forward a referendum on Hong Kong's self-determination, while Hong Kong Indigenous and another new pro-independence Hong Kong National Party also stated that they will run in the upcoming election. Demosisto, a left-leaning political party formed by Umbrella Revolution leaders Joshua Wong, Oscar Lai of the Scholarism and Nathan Law of the Hong Kong Federation of Students was also formed on the same day. The political party aimed to field candidates in the upcoming election with the platform of "self-determination" of Hong Kong future. It allied with veteran activist Eddie Chu who rose to fame in the 2006 Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier protest and university lecturer Lau Siu-lai who held class in the occupation sites in the 2014 occupy protest.
On 14 July 2016, the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) announced its plan to require all candidates to sign an additional "confirmation form" in the nomination to declare their understanding of Hong Kong being an inalienable part of China as stipulated in the Basic Law, in response to many potential localist candidates advocating or promoting Hong Kong independence. After the end of the nomination period, six localist candidates received emails from the EAC which said their nominations were "invalidated". New Territories East constituency returning officer Cora Ho Lai-sheung rejected Leung's nomination on the basis that she did not trust Leung "genuinely changed his previous stance for independence."
The localists scored a great victory in the election, winning six seats (excluding Claudia Mo) and securing of 19 per cent of the vote share (excluding Claudia Mo and Gary Fan). Occupy student leader Nathan Law of the Demosisto became the youngest ever candidate to be elected, Polytechnic University lecturer Lau Siu-lai and Eddie Chu, were returned in the geographical constituencies.
Oath-taking controversy and disqualification
On 12 October 2016 the inaugural meeting of the Legislative Council, two Youngspiration legislators Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching took the oaths of office as the opportunity to make their pro-independence statement. The two first claimed that "As a member of the Legislative Council, I shall pay earnest efforts in keeping guard over the interests of the Hong Kong nation," displayed a "Hong Kong is not China" banner, inserted their own words into the oaths and mispronounced "People’s Republic of China" as "people’s re-fucking of Chee-na". Their oaths were invalidated by the LegCo secretary-general Kenneth Chen and was subsequently challenged by the government in the court. On 7 November 2016, the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) interpreted the Article 104 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong to "clarify" the provision of the legislators to swear allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China when they take office. The spokesman of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office stated that "[Beijing] will absolutely neither permit anyone advocating secession in Hong Kong nor allow any pro-independence activists to enter a government institution." As a consequence, the court disqualified the two legislators on 15 November.
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Despite the controversies over "who are localists?" due to the vague concept of localism and the vague platforms of the localists groups, the localist groups can be loosely categorised into the following factions:
- Against Mainlandisation – a moderate parliamentary faction represented by HK First set up by Civic Party's Claudia Mo and previous legislator Gary Fan of Neo Democrats. Although carrying a localist agenda against the influx of mainland culture, immigrants and Communist oppression on Hong Kong people's civil liberties and ways of life, they are categorised into the pan-democracy camp due to their background.
- Democratic self-determination – represented in the Legislative Council by Land Justice League's Eddie Chu and previous legislator Demosisto's Nathan Law and Democracy Groundwork's Lau Siu-lai. They have their root from the left-wing social activism and student movements within the pro-democracy camp. They formed the Local Action during the post-80s conservation movements in the late 2000s which rose to its peak in the anti-Express Rail Link protest. Demosisto, formed in 2016, was led by the student leaders from the two leading groups in the 2014 Hong Kong protests, the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) and Scholarism. They generally hold left-wing agenda, supporting universal retirement protection scheme and sympathising with the new immigrants. On the autonomy of Hong Kong, they advocate for "democratic self-determination", contrasting the right-wing localists' notion of "national self-determination". They usually have warmer relationship with the pan-democrats. After the 2016 election, Eddie Chu positioned himself the progressive wing of the pro-democracy camp.
- Hong Kong independence – a faction encompassing the political spectrum that strives for Hong Kong independence by both parliamentary and militant means. It is represented by the Hong Kong National Party, Hong Kong Indigenous, Hong Kong Independence Party, Studentlocalism and various underground and organisations. In recent years, independence is advocated by student leaders and academics such as Cheng Lap, Billy Fung, Lam Wing-kee and Joe Chung. "Hong Kong independence, the only way out" has become a popular chant in the recent 2019 widespread protests.
- National self-determination – represented in the Legislative Council by Youngspiration's Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching before they were unseated. They emerged from the Umbrella Revolution among other "post-Umbrella organisations" and participated in several protests including the "anti-Siu Yau-wai protest". They advocate for a Hong Kong national identity and a national self-determination over the Hong Kong sovereignty and although do not officially support Hong Kong independence. They generally take the anti-immigration stance against the influx of mainland immigrants and tourists. They also advocate for a more radical and "militant" approach although they also call for "parliamentary path" under the ALLinHK alliance.
- Restoration of the British rule – minor faction which calls for the restoration of the British rule, associated with the Conservatives, the Alliance of Resuming British Sovereignty over Hong Kong and Independence and writers such as Chip Tsao. The latter is the second political group to advocate a breakaway from China established on 26 June 2016. It aims to gain independence as the ultimate goal, but seeks to return to British rule as a transitional phase.
- Sustaining of the Basic Law – represented in the Legislative Council by Civic Passion's Cheng Chung-tai and previous legislator Wong Yuk-man of Proletariat Political Institute. It take "City-State theory" written by Hong Kong Resurgence Order's Chin Wan which call for a city-state status of Hong Kong through the amendment of the Basic Law of Hong Kong mandated by all citizens through a de facto referendum. After the amendment was accepted by the Communist Party of China, the autonomy of Hong Kong would be guaranteed even after the original deadline of 2047. They advocated for a "militant" protest style and are hostile toward the pan-democrats and the left-wing localists, opposed the leadership of the pan-democrat-friendly Occupy Central trio and left-wing activist groups Scholarism and HKFS. After the electoral defeat of the CP–PPI–HKRO alliance, the platform was announced to be dropped.
Legislative Council elections
| % of
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- Pro-democracy camp (Hong Kong)
- Pan-Green Coalition (Taiwan)
- Pro-Beijing camp (Hong Kong)
- Hong Kong Autonomy Movement
- Localism in Hong Kong
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