Hong Kong Autonomy Movement

(Image taken from badcanto.wordpress.com)

I’m not sure how I came across this, but often times on the Internet, one website or video provides a link or reference to another, and as I try to learn more about Hong Kong, I came across the Hong Kong Autonomy Movement. The Hong Kong Autonomy Movement, I believe, is known for its members who wave the British Hong Kong colonial flag of old at protests and on a variety of occasions to express resistance to the Chinese Communist Party. They are those who are denounced by Chinese officials for longing to return to “mistreatment” under the British and demonstrating a lack of gratefulness towards the so-called motherland that provides for Hong Kong’s needs.

But upon reading the little English content published on its blog, I realize that its ideas and actions are not as repulsive or threatening as the Chinese Communist Party perceives it to be; it lists its objectives on its blog as:

  • Universal Suffrage

  • A Hong Kong Government which makes policies for the needs and interests of Hong Kong people

  • Long term housing and land policies to ensure the quality of life of Hong Kong people

  • To reinvigorate the local industries and agriculture

  • To reformulate immigration policy; to regain full authority in approving immigrants from Mainland China

  • To review the constitutional framework under the Basic Law

  • To defend the city-state of Hong Kong, and to reject ‘mainlandisation’ policies such as the “Action Plan for the Bay Area of the Pearl River Estuary” and the brainwashing of our children in the name of “Moral and National Education”

  • To establish local language policies and to protect the Hong Kong culture

  • To review Hong Kong’s currency standard and monetary policies to strengthen Hong Kong’s financial autonomy

Its name is quite self-explanatory: HKAM, as it is abbreviated, desires not so much independence, but Hong Kong’s due freedoms and autonomy, and a government that truly seeks Hong Kong’s interests first.
HKAM is largely made up of young, idealistic Hong Kongers, as many local Hong Kong movements advocating universal suffrage or protection of Hong Kong’s unique culture are; I believe it largely organizes on Facebook. Something I find interesting about it is its explanation for its use of the colonial emblem:
A Cultural Reinterpretation of the Dragon-Lion Emblem of Hong Kong

The Emblem of the Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement symbolizes protection through the combination of the dragon and the lion, that is, the distillation and blending of the best parts of the Chinese and British traditions. The Hong Kong flag of the Chinese dragon and the British lion embodies the spirit of merging Chinese and British cultures, honours the history of Hong Kong, and guards the city-state of Hong Kong. This flag inherits the Hong Kong Ensign under British rule. With the newly added Chinese characters, 香港 (Hong Kong), and the white background changed to the free and noble blue, it symbolizes Hong Kong people keeping their foothold in Hong Kong, sustaining themselves, and autonomously ruling themselves.

The dragon rides on the heavens and the lion strides across the earth. The merging of the lion and dragon means the dragon walking on earth and the lion soaring to the sky. In the face of the Communist Chinese wolf, the people of Hong Kong are not lambs but the vigorous offspring of the Chinese dragon and British lion. Just like a lion mounting the clouds and a tiger with wings, we cannot be put on the same par as the wolf and we will not be in the same room with it.

The Coat of Arms of Hong Kong was designed by the British College of Arms, and it represented Hong Kong between 1959 and 1997. Elegant and noble, upright and balanced, this flag has been familiar to the people of Hong Kong, and it contains Hong Kong’s culture and history. According to The Book of Songs, “Although Zhou is an old state, its mission is to reform and to renew.” The Hong Kong Autonomy Movement reinterprets this flag as follows:

The dragon belongs to the Chinese tradition, symbolizing viability and flexibility; Hong Kong is the repository and guardian of Chinese culture. The lion belongs to the British tradition, symbolizing justice and bravery. Hong Kong is the inheritor and promoter of British culture. The people of Hong Kong are the offspring of the dragon and the lion, the hybrid child of Chinese and British cultures. The shield jointly guarded and supported by the dragon and the lion standing on the territory of Hong Kong symbolizes Hong Kong’s state of being civilized and cultured. The tower above the shield symbolizes the city-state of Hong Kong; the crown on top of the tower symbolizes Hong Kong’s inheriting the full cultural traditions and making herself a king. The junks on the sea stand for Hong Kong’s history as a trading port as well as the adventurous sea-faring spirit. The crown worn by the big lion symbolizes the fact that Hong Kong was once ruled by the British monarch; the small lion holding the dragon pearl symbolizes the ruler of the city-state of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Autonomy Movement preserves the crown for two reasons:- Firstly, to inherit noble spirit, secondly, to make Hong Kong a king forming a constitutional, republican and democratic government and ruling with benevolence and righteousness.

Note: As Hong Kong lacked discussions about city-state autonomy before 1997, no spiritual signs or heraldries have been left, and up till now, a common symbol for Hong Kong is not available. Our adoption of the dragon-lion flag aims at impelling and inspiring the people of Hong Kong by means of a familiar sign. Moreover, as the significance of the original flag has seldom been explored by the people of Hong Kong, it is susceptible to a brand new interpretation. Certain left-wing participants in local resistance movements may find it hard to tolerate our borrowing the cultural sign of the British colony, and may insist on decolonizing Hong Kong and bringing Hong Kong citizens back to the chainless primal state before resisting the tyranny of the local government and of the CCP. We think that this is impracticable. First of all, we cannot possibly return to the primal state. This kind of attempt at decolonization is doomed to fail and thus tolerable to the CCP. In addition, in order to deal with tyranny and struggle with the new colonizer, we must have resources, even resources given to us by the former colonizer. Without weapons, especially a familiar one, one is unable to fight.

Using my meager Chinese literacy, I have surmised that HKAM finds much inspiration in professor Chin Wan’s (陳雲) Hong Kong as a City-State (香港城邦論). Below, I’ve listed the English content I found on HKAM’s blog thus far:
http://hkam2011.blogspot.com/2011/09/hkam-outline.html (This was the post I block-quoted from.)
http://hkam2011.blogspot.com/2011/06/flag-that-is-truly-ours-cultural.html (This seems like a modification of the interpretation of the flag I posted above.)
But if you were to ask me which post I linked to read if you only had time to read one, I would tell you to read this one, posted by what I believe to be of an external organization/person:
I feel that this above link does a good job of helping me sort out my thoughts about HKAM and Hong Kongers’ demonstrations of resistance to the Chinese Communist Party in general; at times it seems that there is little insight or analysis on Hong Kong written in English.
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What June 4 and July 1 Mean to Hong Kong People

(Image: CNN)

Under British rule, Hong Kong prospered with foreign investments, remaining safely distanced and protected from whatever turmoil occupied the mainland time after time. Witnessing the Communist Revolution and all the disastrous events that followed, Hong Kong people increasingly felt assured by the peace and order they found in British rule; to be told that this wouldn’t last – that Hong Kong belonged to China, and that it would surely return – was devastating. It is safe to say that Hong Kong’s history of British rule has instilled in its people a deep, overwhelming sense of entitlement to democracy – universal suffrage – even as China continues in its communist ways. And it is this legacy of British rule that has compelled some Hong Kong people to take up the burdening responsibility of attempting (in the least) to protect their freedoms, perhaps in ways that even those residing in democratic states currently do not. Most notably, Hong Kong people organize on two specific dates – June 4 and July 1 – yearly in an assertion of their current freedom and a demonstration of their collective desire for real democracy.

Nearly twenty-five years ago, in 1989, a respected politician’s death spurred student-led demonstrations in Beijing and other cities; at first, demonstrators wanted reform, but later on, the protests became more radical with some hunger strikes and some demands for democracy. Wikipedia claims that 1.5 million participated in a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on May 21, 1989.

On the night of June 3, tanks were brought into Beijing and Tiananmen Square where many were demonstrating (as stated by Wikipedia as I have no recollection of the events). A South China Morning Post opinion article provides some thoughts and information on the protests.

Every year since, Hong Kong people have organized candlelight vigils on June 4 in Victoria Park in remembrance of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and those who died in the massacre. Last year’s vigil saw a larger turnout: organizers estimated 180,000 in attendance; the death of political activist Li Wangyang days after additionally sparked political outcry (pictures included here).

(Image: Alanala)

(Image: Alanala)

Alanala, a Hong Kong photography blog, provides pictures and accounts of some of the activities on and surrounding June 4 in 2012.

(Image: Alanala)

(Image: Alanala)

Meanwhile, July 1 marks the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to China; the British and other westerners call it the “handover,” while in Chinese I’ve only heard it been referred to as the “return.” While July 1 is a public holiday that features various festivities, celebrations, and fireworks, thousands take to the streets to voice their concerns or dissatisfaction with the government and the current state of affairs; organizers estimated that ~400,000 took to the streets in 2012. [It seems that a moderately credible place that has compiled much apparently accurate information in a relatively succinct manner about the July 1 marches is Wikipedia.]

What really spurred me to write about these mass demonstrations of Hong Kong people was learning once again about the March on Washington in 1963 for civil rights (perhaps deriving much of its fame from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s deliverance of his “I Have a Dream” speech there) and how much emphasis some Americans put on both the demonstration and the speech; I couldn’t help but find it unfair that it seems that most Americans and many of those who are ethnic Chinese regard Hong Kong as just a part of China, and do not realize how much political activism these Hong Kong people constantly undertake year after year. I in part opened this blog to ask questions like this – why does the world not pay as much attention to Hong Kong? Hong Kong, this small city boasts so many in attendance year after year: Hong Kong’s population is a little over 7 million, and yet even the conservative police estimates of the attendance of 2012’s July 1 protest – 63,000 – means that about more than 1 in 120 Hong Kong citizens protested last year. If we were to use the liberal estimate of 400,000, that would mean that more than 1 in 20 people participated. (I would assume that the actual participation in this protest is between these two figures.) Just thinking about those figures alone is honestly quite astounding. Hong Kong people are so vocal about their desire for democracy, yet it seems very few actually hear them; at times it seems as if only the Chinese government recognizes these grievances (and consequently passive-aggressively tries to assert dominance of Hong Kong and affirm that Hong Kong would die without its “help”).

I will just say that I believe I would be satisfied if the world recognized Hong Kong’s overwhelming desire for democracy, and that Hong Kong people are not satisfied with Hong Kong’s current state of affairs with “one country, two systems”; that even as “one country, two systems” is always described as granting Hong Kong people a liberal amount of autonomy and freedom, it is not enough. An increasing number of Hong Kong people – especially those called ” ’90 後” in Chinese, or the generation of those born after 1990 – are not satisfied with pseudo-democracy that in fact denies them one of the most important aspects of democracy: one person, one vote; universal suffrage to elect members to Hong Kong’s legislative body and to ultimately directly elect Hong Kong’s chief executive.

I won’t say that many Hong Kong people are trying to achieve Hong Kong’s independence through these demonstrations, but during these demonstrations, it can seem as if Hongkongers’ views are so different from those of the mainland Chinese government and that the “Hong Kong” government is so unresponsive to their grievances that ideally, Hong Kong could achieve independence and democracy. Taking reality into perspective, this is very much unfeasible since it has been years since the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed in 1984.

Of course it’s always nice that Hongkongers can even publicly remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre and continue to protest the government, but if the [mainland] government holds so much jurisdiction that the local [Hong Kong] government does not even bother responding to their needs, is Hong Kong really that much better off? “A high degree of autonomy” still is not democracy and it seems that the vagueness of such a phrase allows the mainland government to interpret it however it may wish, as long as Hong Kong has relatively more freedom and autonomy than the People’s Republic of China.

And so my internal struggle also continues – is hoping that Hong Kong will change for the better and even possibly shaping my life and future based on my desire to help Hong Kong society in some way naive? Am I too young and too small to actually spark or contribute to change in Hong Kong? And even if Hong Kong achieved true autonomy and democracy and freedom, would Hong Kong people be happy and satisfied – would their desire to participate in government so dramatically diminish (much to my disappointment) if they were to achieve it?

(Image: Alanala)

(Image: Alanala)

I feel so morally and socially compelled to help Hong Kong in some way, but I don’t know if such sentiment is just part of a fleeting phase of childish and youthful optimism on my part; but at the same time, even as I enjoy the other subjects I am considering pursuing, I do not feel I could really benefit society by pursuing careers in them. Another question I ask myself is, if I were to make an active and prolonged effort to help Hong Kong, would I find myself in a place of unemployment?