HONG KONG -- Chan Ho-tin, founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, claims that he and his party have opened a new chapter in the Hong Kong political landscape by openly seeking independence.
Chan, a 25-year-old third generation Hong Konger, was one of the students who attended the Umbrella Movement in 2014 demanding genuine universal suffrage to elect the territory's leader. Disillusioned by the failure of the 79-day sit-in protest in center of the city and frustrated by the decay of the "One Country, Two Systems" formula supposed to guarantee a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong, he shifted to the idea of breaking away from China.
Although his new party has been refused to be officially registered, and harshly attacked by Beijing and its loyalists in Hong Kong, Chan is confident about his cause and told the Nikkei Asian Review that he is preparing to field candidates for the legislative election in September. Following are excerpts of the interview.
Q: Why do you think "being independent" is the only choice for Hong Kong?
A: [After the Umbrella Movement,] I finally found that the Chinese Communist Party will never give us democracy, so I decided to separate from them. But I could not find any parties or organizations that can represent us [and] give voice to Hong Kong independence even though there is actually support for it. We anticipate that the final result for Hong Kong will be either to become a "normal city" of China or an independent country. "One Country Two Systems" will not be permanent. This has not been fully executed in the past 19 years. China has never [abided by] it. [If things drag on like this,] eventually Hong Kong will become a "normal city" of China. We want to stop it, so we stood up.
Q: Do you have a timetable for independence?
A: It is difficult to say in which year Hong Kong will be independent. I think it is kind of meaningless to construct a timetable. But we have our plan. First, we should arouse the Hong Kong people's awareness of a Hong Kong nation, such that they are Hong Kongers instead of Chinese. [Then,] Hong Kong will automatically move forward [toward] independence. We do not have to wait until 2047 [when the current framework legally expires], which is too late.
Q: Do you think your party is able to gain enough support from the public?
A: Yes, I think so, especially on the internet and among younger people. Of course, a lot of Hong Kong people still suspect the possibility of Hong Kong independence. [However,] I found that some people might not support the action but they support the idea. They wish us to be successful but lack confidence with this idea. But actually, Hong Kong has many conditions to be independent. For example, we have the common law. We have the financial system with a long history, which is stable and trusted by people around the world. We have the rule of law, our language and lifestyle. I would not say Hong Kong will become a country in 2016 or 2017. But in the future, it is possible and it will happen.
Q: What is the difference between you and the existing pan-democratic politicians?
A: [The existing pan-democratic politicians] kneel down to the Chinese government, and they think they are Chinese. We should have democracy, but [Chinese authorities] should not be the king who gives us something. What the old democratic parties advocated [are principles] based on the Chinese people. They want to construct a democratic China which is impossible. I think Hong Kong independence is more possible than to construct a democratic China. All they did were for Chinese people but not for the Hong Kong people. [I think the priority] is to save ourselves, and afterward we can help other people.
Q: What is the identity of Hong Kong and do you think you are a Chinese?
A: We have our language which is Cantonese. We [follow] the common law, and we have the rule of law. We have our lifestyle and our own history which is different from China. I think Hong Kong is now actually like a colony of China. We changed from a British colony into a Chinese colony. They [are trying to force] their language, lifestyle and culture to ruin Hong Kong culture.
Some people will say that we are Chinese and Hong Kongers at the same time. But I disagree with that. We are not Chinese, we are just Hong Kongers. We have to identify who belongs to this society. Maybe after 10 years, the Chinese Communist Party may give Hong Kong a [chance to vote] to select our chief executive, but at that time, maybe around two million new Chinese immigrants will be able to vote in Hong Kong. The result is that they might vote for a chief executive who is linked to the Chinese government. It might cause a very serious problem.
We do not restrict identity by [national origin]. Even the people who are from other nations have the chance to become Hong Kongers. No matter where you are born. But [our citizens] have to speak Cantonese, or at least, try to speak Cantonese, or do not oppose this language. [Our citizens should respect] our core values, they have to agree with democracy and learn our traditions and customs. They have to pay more efforts if they are not born in Hong Kong.
I do not stand against the Chinese people. If they [accept our] core values or speak our language, or abandon their Chinese identity and are willing to adapt to a Hong Kong identity, they can also be Hong Kongers.
Q: What is your opinion of your party's denial by the government and your opinions about using violence?
A: We [originally] thought that both Chinese and Hong Kong governments will be against [us] in every aspects like registration and in other ways. But we still stand firm. There is no political party law in Hong Kong, so the Democratic Party is actually a limited [liability company]. We can still carry out our plans, it does not matter. We will still run for the next [legislative] election in September.
I think we can use any means necessarily to achieve our goals. We have to show force to the government. If you have got no power and force, you have no talk. If you do not have power, you only ask for peace and beg for it.
Q: How many candidates are you planning to field party for the Legislative Council elections in the fall?
A: It is most likely to be one. This is actually very important for us and the Hong Kong pro-independence group, because this is a chance to advertise Hong Kong independence. Television, newspapers and magazines will all be talking about Hong Kong independence during that period. If we could win a seat, we are able to talk about Hong Kong independence in the council. We can receive resources and take diplomatic actions, [like] going to other countries such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea to persuade them to support us and [eventually] to balance power in Asia.
Interviewed by Nikkei staff writers Yasuo Awai and Zheng Zhi