Young Hong Kong pro-democrats seek their own solutions to the problem

Young Hong Kong pro-democrats seek their own solutions to the problem

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HKU had its own Tiananmen vigil this year.
HKU had its own Tiananmen vigil this year.
Photo: AFP

Hong Kong's young protesters are wondering what the next step will be, after the political reform plan was voted down by the Legislative Council last Thursday.

While pro-democracy campaigners outside the legislature praised the result, young protesters are increasingly forging their own path.

In the wake of last year's Occupy movement, they say they identify less as Chinese and have little faith that trying to work with Beijing will lead to the freedom they seek.

"When it comes to the discussion of democracy, voting rights, the right to be nominated, it is a kind of civil right in society," said Billy Fong, president of the University of Hong Kong(HKU) Students' Union. "This right only belongs to those citizens in Hong Kong, not people living north of the Shenzhen river," he added.

Under Fong's leadership, this year the HKU Students' Union broke away from the annual Tiananmen Square vigil in Victoria Park.

Instead it held its own, smaller event, saying it no longer agreed with the organisers' strategy to push for democracy in China as a way to win freedoms for Hong Kong.

"Hongkongers will distance themselves from China. We don't share a consensus," said student Jamie Wong, 18. "We need to mobilise more people to confront the authorities."

Student Leslie Mak, 19, said she believed "there was still hope" for democracy, but felt an identity shift after the mass rallies. "My feeling about being Chinese is blurring. I feel strongly about being a Hongkonger," she said.

Mak agrees with a new call by youngsters to amend the Basic Law, which they feel restricts democratic development. Students at the vigil in Victoria Park this year burned copies of the Basic Law onstage.

"This alienation from the motherland and focus on core Hong Kong values will continue and will win more supporters," predicted Willy Lam, a professor at Chinese University. "Now most young people realise they may not see a democratic China within their lifetime so they want to focus on Hong Kong."

Pan-democrats risk losing the support of youngsters entirely after achieving no concessions from Beijing, added analyst Ma Ngok.

"There will be some groups, especially younger groups, who think that they need to be more radical, more confrontational. Mainstream political parties will find it difficult to mobilise young people for the next [district and parliamentary] elections," said Ma. "Most of the older generation still see themselves as Chinese, but the young say 'we are Hongkongese'."

But while they are keen to differentiate themselves, Ma says there is little genuine desire among the city's young to break away from Beijing.

"They feel they were promised harmony … but are seeing more control. It's like a very stringent father," he said. "They don't think: 'We are going to form an independent country, or an independent state'. They just want to be left alone. To put it very simply, they just want to be free."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Students seek new path

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