Support for localism is on the rise in universities, the South China Morning Post has learned. Up to half of the city’s eight publicly funded institutions could be bringing in pro-localist student unions this year.
None of the student leaders the Post interviewed listed independence for Hong Kong as their desired objective. But they were ready to push for a more Hongkongers-first approach and what they described as greater protection for the city’s core values.
One student leader in the pro-localist camp even said the “one country, two systems” principle set out by Beijing could still be an acceptable framework.
Localism is a loose term which means those who campaign for local identity or independence. It has gained a lot of media attention recently, most notably when Edward Leung Tin-kei, spokesman of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, won a respectable 15.4 per cent or 66,524 votes cast in the New Territories East Legislative Council by-election.
It seems that localism, once thought of as being too radical, is gaining popularity on campus.
The Post contacted the student union presidents, or contenders for the post, from eight universities. Most said localism was becoming more popular on campus.
The University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology had elected a pro-localist student union.
Baptist University could usher in a pro-localist student union, too, given the only contender in the race was said to support localism.
Lingnan University is led by non-localist president Devon Cheng Pui-lun, who formed a mixed cabinet consisting of some localist members.
Polytechnic University is the most lukewarm of the student unions towards localism.
City University and Hong Kong Institute of Education were not scheduled to elect a student union president this year.