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Banned Hong Kong Independence Groups Continue Efforts


Pro-democracy protesters mark China's National Day, in Hong Kong, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Banned Hong Kong Independence Groups Continue Efforts
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Baggio Leung is the new spokesman for the pro-independence party Hong Kong National Front.

Recently, he spoke about the need for political change in Hong Kong.

“Independence is the only way for Hong Kong to survive,” he said. “Without a democratic system we can never end the privilege class ruling in Hong Kong,” he added.

He keeps his voice low, possibly because a lot of what he says could make the police consider him a threat to the state. The government of Hong Kong has ruled that his ideas are unconstitutional.

Separation from China

Leung is the latest young politician to call for Hong Kong’s independence from China. He says it is a necessary first step for democratic reform. He believes there can be no change without separation from China. He is not the only young person to feel this way.

Hong Kong National Front and a few other groups of mostly young people continue to call for independence or a referendum on the subject.

Many of their political ideas developed from political events that have taken place in Hong Kong since democracy protests known as the Umbrella Movement in 2014. Some young people tried to enter politics to cause change, but they found they were blocked. Leung was elected to the city’s Legislative Council in 2016. But, he was barred from office with five other pro-democracy politicians for changing his oath of office as a political protest.

Thousands Hongkongers Join Umbrella Movement 4th Anniversary Rally
Thousands Hongkongers Join Umbrella Movement 4th Anniversary Rally

Since then, other pro-democracy candidates like Agnes Chow and Lau Siu-lai have been barred from running for public office. They support ideas like “self-determination.” In addition, the leaders of the Umbrella Movement have been put on trial.

In September, the city banned the Hong Kong National Party. Officials said it was a threat to national security for its pro-independence ideas. Many in Hong Kong believe China’s Communist Party was behind the ban.

They also believe the city’s self-rule is under threat. When Britain handed over the former colony to China in 1997, the Chinese government promised Hong Kong self-rule until 2047.

The Hong Kong National Front reaches out into the community, said Leung. Other groups, like the pro-independence Studentlocalism and Student Independence Union, are doing similar things with high school and university students. Online, discussion of independence continues on Cantonese internet websites like HKGolden.com and LIHKG.com.

“Most of the students want freedom but they don’t know how to express their view of freedom,” said Wayne Chan. He founded the Student Independence Union in January. He said many students do not support independence, but would like to see a referendum on Hong Kong’s future.

The Student Independence Union is pushing for such a referendum. The group also wants the United States government to sign the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The Act would place penalties on anyone found responsible for interfering with a Hong Kongers’ right to free speech or association.

Benny Tai is an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong, and he helped start the Umbrella Movement. He said his group will continue its efforts.

“I think to young people in Hong Kong, independence is a choice that they will still consider now even though they may not talk about that in the open,” he said by email. “As people get more and more dissatisfied with the Chinese Communist Party, they will naturally hope for independence even though they have no idea and no plan on how it will happen.”

I’m Susan Shand.

Erin Hale reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

privilege - n. a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

referendumn. an entire area of people who vote yes or no on a new idea or policy

oath – n. a promise

self-determination – n. the way a person lives his own life

penalty n. punishment for breaking a rule or law

association – n. a connection or relationship between people

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