A Remark on Hong Kong Politics

by Wayne Yeung

Photo Credit: RFA

“If men wish to be free, it is precisely sovereignty they must renounce.”

Hannah Arendt

Is Localism Populism?

THAT LOCALISM is populist is quite often declared—originally by the Left but quickly spreading across political affiliations (most recently by Qiang Shigong), and always with a pejorative tone—but sadly not rigorously examined. Behind this charge is the assumption that localism is simply a variation of European-American populism, an oppositional ideology which gains traction from its ultra-nationalist, anti-leftist, and immigrant-bashing rhetoric. Just as many formal features of localism can be legitimately said as embodying certain qualities of populist movements in the West (say, its incendiary hostility against universalism, embrace of partisanship, etc.), equally plausible arguments can be made from the other side on the ground that localism, which endorses a “civic” or “cultural” rather than ethnic understanding of Hong Kong identity, is less rigid and thus not actually “xenophobic”, but is closer to a form of “strategic essentialism” in reaction against nationalistic-imperialistic encroachments of local identity. [1] Both sides share an understanding of populism as a politicized form of racism, and this in turn is the by-product of reliance upon political ideas borne out of the realities of western nation-states, where the umbilical cord between race and nation is troublingly unsevered.

A definition of populism that does not take race-thinking as its defining feature may have some hopes in clarifying our situation. Jan-Werner Müller has argued that populism has an “inner logic” that is inevitably moralizing and monist, marked by an undiluted popular will (which can exist outside all procedures and institutions) which lays claim to power with a squeaky-clean conscience. [2] And indeed, even as far as European populisms are concerned, their concept of legitimate political agents are never defined simply in racial terms—woes be to the blacks and the Muslims, but also to the self-serving political elites, the hypocritical loony leftists, and basically anyone who does not belong in the authentic, downtrodden (or authentic because downtrodden) demos. In Müller’s definition, the populists are not just another insufferable racist, but this identity is based on their shared conception of politics, the very way they make sense of the political world and their own position within it, with race being one of the possible modalities of defining friends and enemies. Adopting this definition, one immediately notes how sorely a rigorous definition of populism is missed in the current conversation about localism. [3] What if populism is not to be defined along the lines of xenophobia or racism, but is a political logic in its own right? How does a comparison with Hong Kong localism based on this definition look like?

The Localist Process: Activism in Revenge

THE RISE OF localism in Hong Kong can be attributed by many political and socio-economic reasons, a full account of which would require another long essay. But undeniably, localism gains much currency in direct consequence of the failure of the Umbrella Movement. From its original conception as Occupy Central to its practice after its eruption, the Umbrella Movement was largely faithful to its peaceful, non-violent principles and the somewhat Socratic insistence on legality even while challenging it. Its failure is widely interpreted as the sign that this civil-mannered line of protest, backed by a socio-liberal ethics, has reached its limit in terms of pressurizing the government. [4] Playing this point successively against the student activists and the Occupy Central trio who were the main representatives of the Umbrella Movement, localist opinion leaders managed to convince a large portion of the protesters that they represent a more “martial” approach willing to experiment with alternatives crossed out by the Umbrella activists.

PhotoCreditVincentYu:APImages from the “Fishball Revolution” in Mong Kok in February 2016. Photo credit: Vincent Yu/AP

In this sense, the localist movement presents a dimension hitherto not found in other forms of populisms—if populist movements in the West are played out in the framework of party politics with a typically long-standing history—even if ultimately upsetting to this framework (think of the Tea Party as a movement within the GOP) —localism in Hong Kong stands out as a partisan form that emerges directly out of social activism before creeping into the increasingly bipolar party establishment (which structurally invites the claim that “they are all the same”). So while the student organizations struggled, for better or worse, to maintain an appearance of disinterestedness by distancing themselves from political parties and electoral politics, localists are not shy to declare openly their goal to be elected representatives within the established political framework. [5] In this way, localism amalgamates social activism with party politics, monopolizing within the political apparatuses the representativeness for civil society, even if just the protesting part, of Hong Kong, by banking on its activist past. (Therefore, the closest analogy in this case would be found, not in typical populist parties in Europe, but in the sovereigntist Parti Quebécois of Canada after the 2012 student strike, which did get a student leader elected, even though the social-democratic position of the party is a far cry from localism.)

Localism can thus be seen as a species of social activism with an aim to seize hold upon the state apparatus, without challenging the framework in which the state dominates society. To be sure, coup d’état as a method is still far from their horizon, but in any case it is willing to play along the rules of electoral processes when they discover that it may be in their interest to do so. Their “martial” appearance is more a sign to show that they are free of the hypocrisy that was the fatal mistake in previous protests (a quality that generates solidarity among their supporter base) than a conscious attempt to raze across the boundaries of established political procedures through violence (which was what totalitarian political parties would do). This is interesting because localists have found a reason or justification to play by those rules and convince their supporters that they have not sold out even in doing so, all the while contending that the institutions are completely corrupt. In a sense, the hypocrisy they are trying to expose also applies to the lack of desire of the previous protest organizations to seize political power, which they consider as a lack of the will to rule and is thus politically irrelevant. This may be the reason why they are much quicker to organize themselves into political parties.

The point on hypocrisy seems worthwhile to say a few more words about. All populisms occupy, even saturate, the space of authenticitythe populist tagline is always, “They don’t dare to say that, but let me tell you (that you are right and they are wrong)”. And in this aspect, localism hardly differs from populism. The reason why localist opinion leaders gain so much popularity in spite of their gaffes (which would be fatally discrediting if they happened to anyone on the other sides) is that localism successfully tapped into the popular disillusionment for traditional pan-democratic parties and activist organizations by smearing them as hypocrites. [6] Historically speaking, the mass is more ready to wage war against hypocrisy, a psychological quality, than against injustice, which is a visible act. Hypocrisy contaminates the moral purity of the mass more than an immoral deed offends the moral conscience of the individual, since the latter may, in a reversal of fortune, surprise us with good consequences (think of the classical dilemma of killing one person to save three others), whereas hypocrisy concerns a vice that goes into the very core of the person. [7] This is why the criticisms that localism works in favor of the pro-Beijing establishment earn so much sneering contempt from the localist sympathizers—in their view, at least the Beijing loyalists are true to their kin (and may even turn into our favor if their full reign awakens more people to reality), but the pan-democrats are treacherous sellouts.

The activist status of localism is important because while populism usually divides itself from the established political order (typically of liberal democracy), localism divides itself from a social activism that has no recognized place that could be legitimately said as hegemonic within the power structure of society. Their power is derived directly from the impotence felt by the protesters within a movement that seems to have lost its purpose and thus, to some, need to hang on to more extreme claims and tear the mask worn by the hypocrites to have a chance to survive; for better or worse, they find a new lease of life in the state. It can be described as a form of social activism tired of merely being a watchdog of the state patrolling outside its walls, and now wants to jump in.

The Populist Temptation? Responses of the Intellectuals

IN MID-2015, a debate which took place between PC Chow (周保松), a liberal-leftist professor in CUHK, and Daniel Lee (李達寧), a bookstore owner with anarchic socialist convictions, was ostensibly about “the struggle of lines” between liberalism and Marxism, but a real debate did take place behind it about how intellectuals could respond to the rise of localism. [8] On one hand, Chow called out the lack of specificity in the localist claim of “Hong Kong to the locals first” (although he could have pointed out more forcefully that “the local” as a political category is entirely fictional). On the other hand, Lee believes that the resentful xenophobia in localism can be redirected to attacking the bourgeoisie and capitalism, and thus made useful for leftist politics. Both tried to redeem the dignity of leftist politics in the face of what is widely perceived as a right-wing development, but neither is beyond remolding the localist into their own politics.

Zhou_Baosong_20071029PC Chow. Photo credit: IsaacMao/Flickr

PC Chow argues that “making Hong Kong interest a priority” is in need of more moral justifications, but this argument veils his concern for the readiness to put aside morality in the localist discussions about conducting protests. Arguably, he fails to grasp the meaning behind the localists’ call to ditch moral considerations in protests. Not only is this call a direct appeal to shed hypocrisy, but behind this call is the conviction that whatever a protester does is morally pardonable—to the demand for further moral justifications, the localist can always answer, Why should a good guy be asked to prove his goodness? The localist is not someone for whom good and bad no longer matters, but someone whose moral sense always works in his or her own favor. In this sense, localism is a curious mixture of political realism and moralism—they can always decry the political world as dominated by intrigue and self-interest, and then behave exactly as what they accuse the others of, while perfectly retaining the appearance of authenticity (for they simply do what everyone will in their place). [9] Although the motivations of Chow and the localists are different, interestingly they share the same tendency to moralize politics, where politics can be subsumed to the dictates of one’s moral appetite.

On the other side of the debate stands the classical Marxist rebuttal from Lee that liberal morality is bourgeois ideology. To be sure, he did call for a “creative, emancipatory morality”, which is, of course, a call for a moral sense in which revolts against unjust institutions—even violent ones—would be categorically good (one worries if in this there lies a mistaken conviction that revolutionary Marxism can be reduced to random acts of class vengeance). [10] In this vein, he contends that localism, which grasps the “essence of oppression” only incompletely, falls back upon a strawman by letting xenophobic bigotry run amok, rather than going after the real political enemy, the bourgeoisie. Besides Lee’s distaste for bourgeois liberalism taken as yet another form of hypocrisy which rings with the localists, his naiveté of taking theory (in this case Laclau’s) at face value seems also to have led Lee to believe that localism is a species of misguided political radicalism that can be freely imported to the left wing—and this naiveté is not uncommon among European intellectuals one century ago. The problem is to mistake the ability of “radical” mass mobilization to stir up social order as a genuine and democratic interest in political participation which challenges the existing “bourgeois” institutions—the same mass who protested against the dysfunctional parliamentary system just a moment ago can give their whole-hearted support to their favorite candidate in the same game without a qualm.

PhotoCreditAppleDailyDaniel Lee. Photo credit: Apple Daily

We spend some time on this rather dated debate because it is one of the first times that intellectuals with academic backgrounds tackled on the issue of localism. It would be too far-fetched to accuse the intellectuals as having succumbed to the temptation of populism; at least not the two individuals discussed, although arguably a fear of being identified as demophobic did animate the conversation. And it could be felt that they both rightly saw localism not as a political malady to be shut off, but as a form of political passion that contains a rational core. But both believed wrongly that what the begrudged localists need is to see how their own political philosophies can be seen as compatible with them, which does not differ so much from prescribing political conversion for the localists. Besides being inherently patronizing, the problem with this notion is that localism aspires very little to become a systematic political philosophy—just as populism in general does not—but is proud of its ease with improvisation, even ostensible self-contradiction. To the fellow-travelers of localism, no philosophical sophistication will be deemed sufficient insofar as it remains what it is, as grand concepts and “ethics” floating above people’s heads, rather than an explanation of what is going on in our tangible reality, however makeshift and fictional it might be upon closer examination.

Proliferating Localism In the Time of Stillborn Democracy

THERE LEAVES the question of how to relate localism within the general framework of democracy. The question is twofold—the political-theoretical one, on the relationship between localism and the theory of democracy, especially under the premise that populism is widely theorized as a perverted, shadowy stand-in of democracy; and the political-scientific one, which is how localism is positioned in an admittedly undemocratic political framework in local context. The reason why one cannot simply import western concepts of populism into Hong Kong is that we cannot speak of localism as nothing more than a “malaise of liberal democracy” as we could of populism.

One could however point out how both western populism and localism are grassroots political reactions to a supposedly representative regime (especially for the pan-democratic camp) and an apolitical bureaucracy becoming more and more alienated from its base—although one should also add that populism in Europe responds to a supranational entity, while localism responds to a sub-sovereign state under an authoritarian regime. When the HKSAR government insists on the immutability of policy decisions from the Central government above our heads, localist leaders always respond by the innumerable, unmovable popular will for “self-determination”, even sovereignty, under our feet. Neither side is prepared for seeking alternatives outside of their own positions. Localism is the product of the bureaucratization of Hong Kong politics, most visible during the Umbrella Movement, under which popular demands are only too often meted out with legalistic, technocratic solutions which are apolitical and impersonalit turns out that no one wants to be responsible for facing the public. So politics is becoming a job delegated to the police and the legal apparatus. And when there is no one to argue with in the room, tearing down the walls of the room becomes tempting.

And in many ways, the conduct of localism mirrors the increasingly illiberal ruling class in Hong Kong, with both trying to appropriate the rhetoric of democracy to their own end. One side clamors that localism is about civic identification with “Hong Kong values” rather than ethnic belonging, and the other patronizing the public with the claim that the protest movement was “unconstitutional” and “against the rule of law”. They both attempt to create a kind of prerogative, a standard to extract a “we” out of the “they”, which is in turn claimed be have basis in liberal values. Sometimes, it looks like that they might be trading attributes as well, as the localists declare they can “bring the struggle into the LegCo”—which essentially is an oxymoronic recommendation for political struggle by proxy, while the pro-establishment PR managers enjoyed flaunting the support from the opaque “silent majority” in the name of which they act. Both sides are posturing as the appointed agent of the pre-procedural “people” which has monopoly over legitimate power.

What adds to our problem is that there is a tendency to treat the localist protest movement as an economic problem. While it is true that a great deal of popular discontent localism taps into comes from the widening wealth gap and decline in social mobility in Hong Kong, it is unlikely to be solved if the government answers selectively to the economic aspect of the protest only—the case is actually that the protesters do not simply take out their own economic frustration to the streets, but are using it as a general, social malady that undermines HKSAR government’s authority—particularly its representativeness of the interest of Hong Kong (which is its constitutional duty). And in some instance, the leftist intellectuals’ Marxist tendency to “economize” the protest movement is now imitated by the elites in the government. [11] Both deny the political aspect of the protest by suggesting that political participation can be traded off with economic clientelism. By willingly sacrificing economic interest, localism increasingly shows us that this logic may no longer work.

PhotoCreditAFPEdward Leung and members of Hong Kong Indigenous. Photo credit: AFP

This is why comparisons of localism to western populism will always be question-begging—similar as they may be in terms of form and sociological origin, the political context will determine their difference. Populism rises in the opening cracks between liberalism and democracy in Europe; localism is the answer to the broken promises of a liberal state increasingly shown as a sham, and a democracy perpetually procrastinated. And one should not ignore that populist tendencies are not only found in localism either – the pro-establishment camp has no lack of demonstration in this regard, with their recent onslaught on the refugee question being but one example. Even the pan-democrats have their fair share in this game, fear-mongering their voter base with ambiguous terms like “Mainlandization” to attain the moral high ground. Therefore, it is not fair to single out localism as courting with populism, when the fact is that Hong Kong has been an undemocratic society all along, so accustomed to middle-tier politicians imagining themselves as speaking on behalf of the people while fetishizing populism in different forms as the real thing. [12]

It has been suggested that non-sovereign entities cannot become democratic if the central entity remains undemocratic. [13] This context has already paved the way for localism, when it becomes tempting to conflate democracy with sovereignty. If localism raises the issue of sovereignty in Hong Kong as a prerequisite of democratization, they can identify themselves as democrats a priori, thus allowing them to dodge virtually all disagreement with their conduct. It is of utter importance for us to bear in mind that, with its implications with the raison d’état, sovereignty is in fact rarely compatible with democratic freedom; still, one cannot neglect that such a claim is actually the mirror image of the ruling logic of the current sovereign entity, which in its exercise of the raison d’état does not acknowledge any distinction between national and state interest.

Surviving Localism: An Attempt Towards An Impossible User’s Manual

IT IS ALWAYS disastrous for political scientists to jump into the practicalities of suggesting political solutions, more so if they expect a serious audience, but there are always people foolish enough to undertake this impossible task. The problem of independence has unfortunately loomed larger than its real significance—it seems that no one really believes it, not even the localists themselves who, upon more questioning, invariably shy away from the topic. (In his op-ed for New York Times, Wan Chin claims that his political idea is built on the principle of confederation, not independence. He never uses the word “independence” (獨立), only “nation/state-building” (建國), with the subject being ambiguous in Chinese.) [14] Still, independence is gaining traction, not primarily because of the popularity of localism, but because “separatism” is the only language the populace can speak which can expect a serious, political answer (even a negative one) from the ruling alliance between Hong Kong and the PRC, whose outrage with splittism is a knee-jerk response; in other words, sovereigntism has become the barometer for the exact status of the constitutionally promised freedom of speech.

PhotoCreditVOAWan Chin. Photo credit: VOA

It is already well-known that localists are impervious to the reproach of their “essentialism”, and one gets the impression that the localists also seem vaguely aware that the claim for independence is not to be taken literally but rather “strategically”—if not, how are we to explain the apparent absurdity that they are trying to get themselves elected into a political framework where such an advocacy has no hope to be entertained? So outing theirs as half-hearted lip service may not work so well either. It is also possible that this exposure would trigger a new wave of hunting for hypocrites which will finally give birth to a real independence movement. [15]

Unfortunately, the HKSAR government continues to lack a response beyond its usual moral and legal blackmail. [16] What is needed instead is an acknowledgement that a crisis of confidence has occurred surrounding the not-so-long-term sustainability of Hong Kong identity with all its political and social ramifications, to be followed by a frank and honest discussion about the articulations of local identity at a political, institutional level.

The political model tested by history to be best suited for the purpose of resolving divisive secessionism is confederation—the very model advocated by Wan Chin. Indeed, as often as his “essentialism” is reproached, and as much as his oracular advice on a return to traditionalism, conducting a modern society with ethico-cultural mores, is head over heels, it is sorely true that his political vision deserves more serious attention than it receives now. [17] However discomforting this position may be, one needs to admit that a confederal China is the only hope to curb the centripetal tendency, which is arguably the source of many problems in both Hong Kong and Chinese societies, and a trapping nation-states are doomed to repeat. [18] The problem with his vision is not its implausibility under the current regime—the leftism of Daniel Lee and some others has effectively proven that a lot of us are happy to throw the caution for practical plausibility in the wind—but that his confederalism is inherently incompatible with an overwhelming, monolithic contracting party big enough to stifle any confederation to come, with or without the dominion of the current political force. It is only logically possible under the premise that there are multiple regionalisms co-existing in the continent as well.

As fully aware as we are that this is extremely unlikely to happen, still a great portion of popular discontent behind localism and call for independence can be channeled to other causes: “crowdsourcing” the constitution, as suggested by Civic Passion (following the example of Iceland), offers some food for thought, although this aspect of their politics is rarely highlighted among their supporters (and critics), raising doubts as to their seriousness. [19] Moreover, much of the controversy surrounding the exact basis of the Basic Law stems from the lack of an institutional body with a representation of Hong Kong which has the final authority to arbitrate on constitutional matters —we lack an independent constitutional court, leaving the power of interpretation and revision to an administrative (not judiciary) body in mainland China (in other words, the “separation of power” supposed in Hong Kong is never a complete reality). [20] All of these suggestions hinges upon a constitutional reform to be buttressed by institutional design. Sadly, such an obvious fact has not been recognized enough in the political realm of Hong Kong.

Many seem to believe that the best response to localism is to fit one’s language to theirs by opening with a version of Hong Kong identity and making one’s position look compatible, or even better amend one’s policy directions to suit their taste. [21] But the only politically relevant message to take from the rise of localism is that our political institutions are rendering a significant portion of Hong Kong society superfluous, and what is required in this case is a new social contract embodied by a new constitutional settlement with broad-based support and corresponding institutional arrangement. So the current urgency that should concern us is how to make this popular will a tangible, palpable reality. And somehow one has the impression that the resort to plebiscite as a means to enlighten the popular will, championed by Demosistō (formerly Scholarism), is rapidly losing its appeal in the wake of the Umbrella Movement; more experimental modes of political participation needs to be explored. [22] In other words, many of the complaints underlying localism can be addressed seriously even if we disagree strongly with the way they frame our current political impasse and the institutional framework they propose.

PhotoCreditWing1990hkMembers of Civic Passion. Photo credit: Wing1990hk

The talk on Hong Kong identity has rattled for so long in the political realm, marking the fact that the rise of localism, together with the rhetorical style it makes fashionable, has unfortunately crowded out the conversations on other more important institutional issues. Localism, before a politicized mood surrounding an exceptional Hong Kong identity, is above all an outcry for fundamental institutional change, which requires our recognition that the constitutional settlement we have now is fundamentally flawed. The urgent question concerning our political contestation nowadays is how to shift to focus from an identitarian concern to a political, institutional one.

[1] In certain cases the debate uses the term “fascism” rather than “populism”, or uses them interchangeably. For the former, see 區龍宇, “右翼本土論危害本土”. http://left21.hk/wp/2013/05/%E5%8F%B3%E7%BF%BC%E6%9C%AC%E5%9C%9F%E8%AB%96%E5%8D%B1%E5%AE%B3%E6%9C%AC%E5%9C%9F/. Accessed on 3 April 2015. For the latter, see for example, Brian Hioe (丘琦欣), “Accusations of Fascism Yet Again from the Pro-Unification Left”. //newbloommag.net/2016/02/26/prounification-left-hk-eng/. Accessed on 3 April 2015.

[2] Müller, J.-W. (2014), “The People Must Be Extracted from Within the People: Reflections on Populism.” Constellations, 21: 483–493.

[3] But see 羅永生, “民粹主義:香港的時代精神?”, Fleurs des Lettres (字花), May-June 2015, p. 109-113.

[4] For a cross-section of this disillusionment, see the interviews by En Liang Khong with Glacier Kwong and Chan Kin-Man. http://www.berfrois.com/2015/11/the-left-in-hong-kong-has-been-inchoate-since-the-1967-riots/. Accessed on 3 April 2015. The “legalistic” traits of the Umbrella Movement have since been widely pointed out. See Veg, Sebastian. ‘Legalistic and Utopian’, New Left Review 92: March-April 2015.

[5] Edward Leung, a HKU student and a leader of Hong Kong Indigenous, ran for office in the by-election in February 2016, closely followed by the announcement of five militant localists with backgrounds in Civic Passion, including Wan Chin, of their plan on running for LegcoLegCo. See “Five localists plan to run for Legco seats in push for Hong Kong independence”, SCMP, 29 February 2016. On the other hand, even with all the credibility gained during the Anti-National Education Movement and Umbrella Movement, Scholarism is much less eager to form political party.

[6] For example, following a string of Facebook posts posted by Wan Chin in late June 2015 in which he criticized the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US, he claimed to have “lost over 5000 Facebook followers overnight”. As yet, there is little sign that he failed to reconcile with his supporting base. It would be interesting to compare this incident with James To, a Democratic Party legislator of Christian faith whose unease with queer topics became well-known as early as 2012.

[7] Hannah Arendt raised this point several times in her works, usually within the context of rebellion movements and revolution. See, in particular, On Violence p. 65-66 (A Harvest Book: 1970) and On Revolution, p. 91-98 (Penguin Books: 2006).

[8] For a more detailed reading of this debate, please see, by the same author: http://www.pentoy.hk/%E7%A4%BE%E6%9C%83/y545/2015/07/21/%E7%90%86%E8%AB%96%E7%9A%84%E7%A3%A8%E6%96%A7%E7%9F%B3-%E8%AB%96%E3%80%8C%E8%87%AA%E7%94%B1%E4%B8%BB%E7%BE%A9%E5%B7%A6%E7%BF%BC%E3%80%8D%E8%88%87%E3%80%8C%E6%BF%80%E9%80%B2%E5%B7%A6/

[9] This paradox is fully demonstrated by Edward Leung’s captioned recommendation that he should also be pressured to step down should he “cease being himself one day”.

[10] The meaning of “revolution” is almost always distorted in a certain way by both sides. Just as Daniel Lee had claimed in his essay that “squatting” would be the logical consequence of leftist politics (obviously in contradiction with Marx’s own recommendation), PC Chow conflated “revolution” with coup d’état or civil war when he suggests that “one needs to pay a price for revolution in terms of the standard of life”. (See his interview “品味蘋果:「思考世界令人痛苦」走進周保松秘密憂傷地”, 蘋果日報, 3 April 2016.)

[11] For a sample, see Daniel Lee (李達寧), “雨傘一代,最崇高也最物質,何來後物質?”.  http://www.inmediahk.net/node/1028672. Accessed 3 April 2016; also certain remarks made in the Berfrois interview by En Liang Khong cited above. A similar line of thought concerning the youth’s lack of economic prospect is picked up by Bernard Chan, an elite member in the government. See his op-ed “Like Trump, Hong Kong localists are a wake-up call for the establishment”, SCMP, 31 March 2016.

[12] For the continuity of localism with colonial institutions designed to clamp democracy, see Law Wing-sang’s article cited above.

[13] Linz, Juan J. and Alfred Stepan (1996). Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 18-19.

[14] Chin, Wan, Chin. “A Federation for Hong Kong and China”. New York Times. 14 June 2015. As late as 1 April 2016, “nation/state-building” remains his preferred term, according to Passion Times, a localist online media. https://www.facebook.com/passiontimes/photos/a.422169814512858.102977.420361564693683/1082941815102318/?type=3&theater. The best retort to this idea comes from Nietzsche, who writes, “Culture and State— – one should not deceive oneself about this— – are antagonists: ‘Kultur-Staat’ is merely a modern idea.” (“What the German lacks” section 4, Twilight of the Idols)

[15] This essay is written closely after the formation of the Hong Kong National Party.

[16] “Hong Kong chief secretary Carrie Lam says calls for independence from mainland China ‘wrong’”, SCMP, 1 April 2016; “Is it legal? Hong Kong justice department questions status of new pro-independence party”, SCMP, 29 March 2016.

[17]  陳雲, “重認封建,再立共和——中國的文化建國”. https://www.facebook.com/notes/wan-chin/%E9%99%B3%E9%9B%B2%E9%87%8D%E8%AA%8D%E5%B0%81%E5%BB%BA%E5%86%8D%E7%AB%8B%E5%85%B1%E5%92%8C%E4%B8%AD%E5%9C%8B%E7%9A%84%E6%96%87%E5%8C%96%E5%BB%BA%E5%9C%8B/481467485210539/. Accessed on 4 April 2016. While taking stock of his intellectual sources is not the focus of the present essay, it is an interesting but underappreciated fact that Chin considers nationalized traditionalism as a cure for the modern “atomization of individuals”, a view that would put him among the ranks of Charles Péguy in France or Martin Heidegger in Germany, united in their political belief in overcoming modernity by returning to an ancient, metaphysical belief (a role Confucianism is never entirely adequate, so that Chin sometimes substitutes it with quasi-Taoist spiritualism). Only this, not any others hitherto condemned ad nauseam, is the authentically fascist element in his thinking.

[18] It is interesting to see, then, that Benny Tai ventured into this type of speculations with a commentary on the putative Chinese confederation recently. See 戴耀廷, “中國碎片化或萌生民主聯邦”. Apple Daily. 5 April 2016.

[19] The best proof of the cynicism behind their institutional proposals is that the only changes to the Basic Law they are openly interested in are those that work in a flagrantly exclusionary logic within the population. See http://www.passiontimes.hk/article/04-11-2016/29887. Accessed 13 April 2016.  The political exclusion aside, to believe like Wan Chin that autonomy will come from a perpetuation of the terms of the Basic Law (which, after all, only guarantees the conservation of capitalist order in the first place) is not only to have faith in a most implausible scenario, but is absurd even if put to practice.

[20] For an academic elaboration on this recommendation, please see Fung, Daniel R. “The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China: Problems of Interpretation”. International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 37, 1998, pp. 701-714. Of course, the problem of confused jurisdiction, which has given room for unconstitutional maneuvers for bureaucracies on both sides, cannot be prevented simply by revising the text of the constitution. It can only be settled with an institutional body capable of arbitral tribunals in these matters.

[21] See the new manifesto of Civic Party for its 10th anniversary. http://www.inmediahk.net/node/10412611. Accessed 4 April 2016.

[22] See the introductory note of Demosistō. https://www.demosisto.hk/about. Accessed 13 April 2016. To be fair, Demosistō has recommended a petition system which is a change from Scholarism.