Not all want to split from China

Not all localists voted into the Legco think Hong Kong should break away from China. Clockwise from top left: Lau Siu Lai, Nathan Law, Raymond Chan and Eddie Chu.
Not all localists voted into the Legco think Hong Kong should break away from China. Clockwise from top left: Lau Siu Lai, Nathan Law, Raymond Chan and Eddie Chu.PHOTOS: EPA, AFP, RAYMOND CHAN

They are called localists because they want to protect Hong Kong's autonomy, its culture and identity. But not all the localists voted into the Legislative Council (Legco) on Sunday think Hong Kong should break away from China.

Demosisto's Nathan Law, 23, who won a seat in Hong Kong Island, said he is not pushing for independence but "self-determination". He plans to push for a referendum on that in 10 years' time. Mr Law believes Hong Kongers should decide their own future after 2047.

Teacher-turned-lawmaker Lau Siu Lai, 40, rejects the idea of independence and says it will be meaningless to talk about self-determination without democracy, reported the South China Morning Post.

Under the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, Hong Kong's way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years after the handover in 1997, under the "one country, two systems" framework.

For younger Hong Kongers who worry about what will happen after 2047, the term "self-determination" has "substantial appeal", said analyst Willy Lam, adding that some localists use this term in favour of "independence".

To some people, "self-determination" simply means that Hong Kong can have more power to pick the city's Chief Executive. If Beijing is willing to consider universal suffrage, that is a high degree of autonomy for the city akin to self-determination, explained Dr Lam.

While the Occupy protests of 2014 that sought greater freedoms led to the rise of localist groups, Dr Lam said before that there were already social activists fighting to preserve the city's heritage, like independent candidate Eddie Chu, who won in New Territories West.

Mr Chu, 38, known for his campaigns to preserve the Star Ferry pier, in his campaign leaflet said he will be pushing for "democratic self-determination" which he defines as the right of people to decide the city's future political system, free from Beijing's manipulation through the Basic Law.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2016, with the headline 'Not all want to split from China'. Print Edition | Subscribe