When Hong Kong goes to the polls on Sunday a new brand of politician pushing for a complete break from Beijing will be fighting for votes in a frustrated and divided city. It is the most important election since the mass “Umbrella Movement” pro-democracy rallies of 2014, which failed to win political reform despite huge numbers and a global spotlight. Since then, fears have grown that Beijing is tightening its grip in many areas of the semi-autonomous city — from politics to education and media. Some young activists now say there is only one choice: a declaration of independence from China. Many residents still dismiss the idea as a pipe dream, but the independence movement has gathered momentum as authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing rail against it.
Government officials have slammed it as illegal and some of the most strident pro-independence campaigners have been banned from standing in Sunday’s vote for members of the Legislative Council, the city’s lawmaking body, known as Legco.
That only fuelled the fire, with thousands coming out in support of the five barred candidates at Hong Kong’s first independence rally in early August and opinion polls suggesting as many as 17 percent of people favour splitting with China.
Some candidates advocating self-determination for Hong Kong have been allowed to stand although only one or two candidates have a chance of winning a seat in the 70-member assembly. But even that would be a coup for a fledgling movement pushing for a notion that until recently was taboo.