For Hong Kong residents who support independence from China, the biggest obstacle might not lie in Beijing, but Hong Kong.
On Sunday, activist Chan Ho-Tin held a press conference announcing the formation of a new political party. The “Hong Kong National Party” openly calls for the the establishment of a “National Republic of Hong Kong,” and refers to the city’s existing rule by China as “Hong Kong’s colonial government.” Chan was one of the leaders in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, a series of pro-democracy protests that took place in 2014.
“We advocate that Hong Kong independence is the only way out for Hong Kong people,” Chan told media. “We firmly believe that Hong Kong independence is the only way for Hong Kong people to break away from China’s oppression.”
But the party is already facing opposition. Its greatest adversary, in fact, might be the Hong Kong government.
Typically, new political parties in Hong Kong register as limited companies (.pdf, pg 3) in order to establish themselves legally. But Chan said that when the party tried to register its name under Hong Kong’s companies registry, its application was denied.
Yesterday (March 30), the Hong Kong Office of Administration and Civic Affairs released a statement condemning the party. Calls for independence are in violation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, it said, and the government “will take action on the matter according to the law.”
Beijing has also voiced strong opposition. “We believe that the attempt by a very few people in Hong Kong to set up a ‘Hong Kong independence’ organization undermines national sovereignty and security, jeopardizes Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and risks the fundamental interests of Hong Kong,” a spokesperson from China’s State Council Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office told Xinhua.
The Hong Kong National Party posted a rebuttal to the the dual warnings on its Facebook page, which has a modest 6,000 “likes,” last night. “The evil Basic Law still has not been recognized by the people of Hong Kong, and has no bearing on Hong Kong,” its message reads (link in Chinese). The next step for the party is to attract more supporters, in hopes of proving it’s more than a fringe movement. And as long as Hong Kong’s youth remain wary of Beijing’s growing influence, that might come easy.