Young Hong Kongers would rather abandon the “one country, two systems” model than give up democracy, Occupy Central cofounder and Chinese University of Hong Kong associate professor of sociology Chan Kin-man (陳健民) said.
The Occupy Central with Love and Peace campaign and the Umbrella movement of 2014 have prompted young Hong Kongers to develop a stronger sense of identity, Chan said, adding that they have realized that Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” model would not have real democracy.
Twenty years after the handover of Hong Kong to China and three years after 2014’s widespread democratic social movements, there has been a rise in the number of localist groups in Hong Kong, Chan said in an interview with the Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times).
Over the past two decades, about half of the population identified themselves as Hong Kongers, while about 20 percent considered themselves Chinese, Chan said, adding that about 30 percent identified as both Hong Konger and Chinese.
In the past, even if they considered themselves Hong Kongers, they did not reject a Chinese identity, he added.
However, surveys have shown that people in Hong Kong are beginning to reject the notion that they are both Hong Kongers and Chinese, and identification among young Hong Kongers is becoming stronger, he said.
A survey showed that while about half of the population still identify as Hong Kongers, the rate is as high as 70 percent to 80 percent among young people, he said.
However, ideologies held by localist groups and pro-Hong Kong independence groups are not the same, and the ideas people hold regarding independence change rapidly, Chan said.
While about 40 percent of young Hong Kongers supported independence a few years ago, a recent survey has shown that the level of support has dropped to about 10 percent, Chan said.
However, the statistic does not indicate that localism groups are losing ground, Chan said, but rather that young Hong Kongers have calmed down and realized the low probability of the territory becoming independent.
Many young people have also realized that Hong Kong would not have real democracy under the “one country, two systems” model, he said, adding that the trend of young people establishing their own identity while rejecting a Chinese identity would not stop.
As for the territory’s development, Chan said he does not foresee any changes in the next five years, as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) tends to use aggressive means to deal with national issues.
The Chinese government has learned that it needs to rely on nationalism and patriotism to maintain the regime, he said, adding that the more it stresses these two ideals, the more it would emphasize “one country” rather than “two systems.”
As more young people are identifying as Hong Kongers and requesting democracy, they are likely to resort to civil disobedience to make sure that the “core values” of “two systems” do not change, and the number of confrontations is expected to increase, he said.
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region needs to take a neutral role in dealing with these conflicts, unlike former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英), who governed Hong Kong by standing completely on the side of “one country,” he added.
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