The rising localization movement and desperate calls for democratization in Hong Kong serve as a warning to Taiwan, where Sinicization and the weakening localization movement were grave concerns, an academic said yesterday on the eve of the 16th anniversary of the territory’s handover to China.
“The situation in almost every aspect of life in Hong Kong has gotten so bad that Hong Kong independence — for which support remains very weak, however — has been mentioned among the people,” said Chen Yi-chi (陳奕齊), a doctoral candidate at University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
Chen, who also serves as the secretary-general of the Southern Taiwan Society, analyzed political, economic and social development in Hong Kong between 1997 and the present and made comparisons between Taiwan and the territory, which was handed over to China on July 1, 1997, at a seminar organized by the World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) Taipei Chapter.
The year 2003 became a watershed year for Hong Kong, which was hit by deflation — a result of the Asian financial crisis, SARS, the controversial Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law regarding national security and the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which increased Hong Kong’s economic dependence on Beijing, Chen said.
Since then, the “China factor” had infiltrated every aspect of the former British colony as Beijing gradually asserted its political influence and launched an economic invasion by sending more people to the territory and siphoning off its educational, medical and business resources.
By the time Hong Kongers “awoke” from the dream of “one country, two systems” that Beijing had promised, in about 2011 or last year, it was too late, Chen said.
Hong Kongers have not only found out that China’s pledge of “keeping Hong Kong’s ‘status quo’ intact for 50 years” was a lie, but have also realized that the belief of most residents — in particular after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 — that democracy in Hong Kong would be inevitably tied up with China’s democratic movement was incorrect, he said.
That was why a proposal of “city-state autonomy” and a more aggressive initiative for Hong Kong independence have been floated in recent years as Hong Kong residents came to know that democracy would not take root there without a strong grassroots political culture and awareness of their identity, said Chen, who specializes in political economy and has regularly followed Hong Kong politics.
Looking back, Hong Kongers were inspired by what happened in Taiwanese politics, such as the 228 hand-in-hand rally in 2004 and Taiwan’s referendum drives, he said.
“Two things really bother me. First, while Hong Kong is trying to break itself away from Beijing’s tight rein and its ‘one country, two systems’ lie, Taiwan is rapidly throwing itself to China,” he said.
“Second, Hong Kong residents had no choice about the handover because of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1985, but Taiwanese do. And I’m not sure if Taiwanese people realize the gravity of their situation,” he said.