Why We Must Stop Indulging in the Pure Idea of Independence

37th May 13, 2020

The “Hong Kong Independence” school of thought is still a taboo to some, but the society’s general response to such a radical chanting has been undoubtedly more accepting.

While pro-China propaganda has always been labelling, if not demeaning, the independence advocates as “the gang of radicals disrupting peace and stability”, the discussion of how to achieve and maintain independence has slowly gained momentum online since the Umbrella Movement in 2014. The majority of the arguments, often using Singapore as a case study, focuses on the post-independence arrangements of infrastructure, utilities and military. These articles are generally well-researched and logically coherent. Sadly, the world has become even more polarised when disagreements arose. The well-founded arguments are conveniently dismissed in the mainstream discussion, further aggravating the current political deadlock.

“Why” Comes First and “How-to” Next

The independence advocates certainly have something in common with the liberals of east-central Europe back in the 1960’s. The belief that nothing could be gained from negotiating with an authoritarian regime was at the core of the revolutions at that time.

Tony Judt, the renowned English-American historian, suggested that the liberals had a negative starting point. They did not believe there would be any good faith in negotiation. To them, there were only two possibilities if they were to enter a negotiation with the regime. Either there would be a “confrontation where the would-be reformers would be defeated”, or the “more malleable representatives would be absorbed into the regime and their energy dissipated”. The vision of Hong Kong Independence has become a heated topic again in 2020, very much due to this distrust in the establishment.

Unfortunately the correlation between “Five Demands, Not One Less” or “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” and “Hong Kong Independence” has yet to be well delineated. From being dissatisfied with the government to hoping to execute new policies post-independence, the logical tie here is rather loose. The lack of logical steps between the current situation and the desired outcome can be embarrassing even within the Yellow circle. This remains to be one of the most urgent tasks the pro-independence groups have to accomplish – how, if not why, is Hong Kong Independence relevant in the first place?

What is the End Goal?

Czechs and Slovaks chose to withdraw from the life of political notions, believing negotiations were unproductive. They chose to recreate society at individual levels, beyond the reach of the state. Interestingly, the emergence of post-umbrella groups in Hong Kong is echoing with this specific period of the Contemporary History. Some of these groups have secured a certain share in the district councils, while nearly all of them have been taking part in community building. They do not necessarily play their role within the apparent political spectrum. They function as ordinary communal groups, reaching even the most apolitical individuals in society.

Building strong communities is a means, not an end. What the dissidents aim to achieve has to be further distilled. This is no longer the stage to gain public support to press on the Five Demands. This phase ought to further break down the demands into a common political goal. The frustrations, disappointments and emotions have to be condensed into a political outcome, or a bigger political context to be attained. The dissidents would have to make up their mind, not being sidetracked by the mundane functions of the communal groups.

Independence, Democracy, or Virtues?

These days the dissidents are even more furious. While the street conflicts are less frequent, the authority is being offensive in full swing. There is probably no time to keep chanting “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” and delaying the next step.

After all, democracy is never the starting point in the history of nations. It is always the product of the maximisation of virtues (constitutionality, rule of law and separation of powers) that people associate with great democracies. To be sure, the corruption of these virtues is more and more unscrupulously apparent in this city. This is probably a sign that the movement needs a re-articulation of the end goal.

As Sartre said, people have to make their own history, but they don’t get to choose the circumstances. When one is fighting for constitutionality, rule of law and separation of powers, perhaps they will end up being in an independent state.

By Savon

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