July 1 forum flags

13 student groups from higher institutions hold forum at HKU on 20th anniversary of Hong Kong handover

July 02, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

As the annual protest march took off from Victoria Park Saturday afternoon, drawing the attention of local and international media, one group was conspicuously absent: the University of Hong Kong’s Student Union, HKUSU.

At a June 27th press conference, HKUSU president Ed Wong Ching-tak said the student unions of all universities — including HKUSU — would absent themselves from the protest march, organized by the Civil Human Rights Front.

Instead, 13 student bodies from higher institutions would come together and host a forum, titled “Twenty Years of Hardship under China and the Struggle against Enemy for Our Fate.” The forum was held Saturday evening at HKU, with a crowd of about 100 people.

The organizers invited three political theorists from localist factions: Andy Chan Ho-tin, convenor of the Hong Kong National Party; Brian Fong Chi-hang, associate director of the academy of Hong Kong studies at the Education University of Hong Kong; and localist writer Lewis Loud.

July 1 forum speakers

From left: Brian Fong Chi-hang, Lewis Loud, Andy Chan Ho-tin, Ed Wong Ching-tak. (Photo by Holmes Chan)

Like the HKUSU’s June 4th forum, which also included Chan, the discussion revolved around the troubled political future of Hong Kong. The biggest question of the night was comparing whether self-determination or full independence is the way forward.

“If we only talk about democracy without talking about independence, how real is that democracy?” Loud said. “If that democracy is something granted to you, it can be taken away — like what happened yesterday [with the Sino-British Joint Declaration].”

While Loud and Fong expressed some sympathy towards self-determination, Chan argued for independence, adding that the existential nature of the independence movement gives it a stronger claim to legitimacy.

Chan further rejected the path of “democratic self-determination,” a term which caused some confusion among the speakers.

“Nobody knows what democratic self-determination is,” Chan said. “People who support it have no opinion of their own, except they reject independence. So when a referendum comes along, what do they vote for? [...] In the end, they just want to legitimize One Country Two Systems again, with a referendum. This is dangerous.”

As for Fong, a self-determination advocate who published a theory on reform in 2015, he argued that Hong Kong people have a sense of national identity defined in opposition to the mainland.

However, Fong said at the moment it is more important for localists to stop infighting and pool resources. This is a conclusion backed by all speakers, who agreed that outsiders often do not care about the fine differences between localist factions.

Running out of options

As the discussion turned to new opposition strategies in the Carrie Lam era, the emerging consensus was that none of the old ways work anymore.

Loud dismissed the notion that the Umbrella Movement in 2014 translated into gains in legislature seats. He said that the disqualifications of legislators last year already proved that LegCo is now a dead-end for localists.

Chan further noted that the Hong Kong National Party has been prevented from hosting political assemblies and setting up their company.

July 1 forum stage

The forum’s prepared stage was later abandoned due to rain. (Photo by Holmes Chan)

“In terms of resources, look to yourselves. It is useless to depend on the people with established names, like those sitting on the stage here. They face too many constraints,” Loud said. ”Developing your resilience is more important.”

“The focus in the future should not be on one person or one party, but on the crowds,” Chan said, saying that localist politics should engage the community in ways which are less overtly political.

The last refuge of localist activism may be universities, Chan added.

Among the audience of the forum was Kwok, a second-year HKU student. She said the three guest speakers expressed similar views, but she disagreed with them on the point of how Chinese people understand race.

Kwok also said she participated in the protest march earlier that day. She felt that it was acceptable for HKUSU to host an alternate event, as long as all sides “respect” and “don’t interfere with” each other.

The forum was delayed by an hour due to rain, and was moved from Sun Yat-sen plaza to an adjacent covered area.

The 13 student organizations previously released a statement, seen here. The forum can be viewed in full here. It was also covered live on Twitter at @holmeschan_.


Law and literature student at HKU.