Edward Leung, an advocate for Hong Kong independence in 2047 (the year in which Hong Kong will revert back to Chinese governmental control) and a member of the Hong Kong Indigenous political party, has submitted a formal request to petition the government’s disqualification of his run for Legislative Council (LegCo). According to an article in the the South China Morning Post, Leung, along with five other pro-independence politicians, were stripped of their candidacy on the grounds of advocating for independence from China.
Hong Kong Indigenous is a part of a larger political force that supports eventual autonomy from the Chinese government. Though the Hong Kong Basic Law (the city’s mini-constitution) does guarantee certain freedoms to Hong Kong citizens (such as freedom of the press, speech, and assembly) not guaranteed by the Chinese government, it nonetheless stipulates that Hong Kong is a “special administrative region”, non-independent from China. Advocates for Hong Kong independence hope that autonomy will cement the city’s distinct cultural, linguistic, economic, social, and most importantly, political identity.
While both Hong Kong and Chinese governments formally ruled out the possibility of independence, a significant proportion of Hong Kong citizens have nonetheless expressed According to an article in the New York Times, “a poll taken in July by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 17 percent of residents supported independence. Among people ages 15 to 24, that percentage rose to 39 percent”. It is important to note that those who will be witnessing the realities of independence in 2047 and beyond are the student activists and emerging politicians whose voices are muffled by government officials who needn’t live with the resonant implications of their political actions and decisions.
Unsurprisingly, Leung’s disqualification has sparked controversy and claims of violation of political freedom. Is the Hong Kong government’s requirement that LegCo candidates acknowledge the city as an “inalienable part” of China and threat to impose criminal penalties on those who did not comply with the sentiment not an act of political censorship? Should politicians not be protected by their right to freedom of speech and belief? Should they not be given the opportunity to share and express their political ideologies without government interference? Hopefully Leung’s case uncover some answers to these complex questions.