Localist groups (Hong Kong)

Claudia Mo Judiciary of Hong Kong Pro-democracy camp (Hong Kong)

Localist groups
Traditional Chinese本土派
Localist and self-determination groups
Traditional Chinese本土自決派
Politics and government
of Hong Kong
Related topics Flag of Hong Kong.svg Hong Kong portal

Localist groups,[1] or localist and self-determination groups, are the various groups with localist ideologies in Hong Kong. It emerged from post-80s social movements in the late 2000s which centred on the preservation of the city's autonomy and local lifestyles and opposed the perceived growing encroachment of the Beijing government on the city's management of its own political, economic, and social affairs.[2][3]

Many of them have distinct point of view from pan-democrats,[4] and advocate the Hong Kong people's right to self-determination, while milder elements advocate for greater autonomy while remaining part of China, and the most radical call for the return to British rule or full independence as a sovereign state. Certain right-wing localist groups also advocate for a more aggressive and militant stance against the mainland government in defending indigenous interests.[5] For that reason, they are labelled as "radicals" and "separatists" by the Beijing government.[6]

The localists gained significant traction following widespread protests in 2014 against the Chinese government's decision to pre-screen Chief Executive candidates before allowing them to be chosen by the general public in the 2017 election. Following these protests, a number of localist political parties were formed, organising protests and participated in Legislative Council elections. They won a total numbers of six seats (excluding Claudia Mo) with 19 per cent of vote share (excluding Claudia Mo and Gary Fan) in the 2016 Legislative Council election.

After the election, the left-wing localists Nathan Law and Lau Siu-lai (both consider as part of pro-democracy camp), as well as the right-wing localists Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching of Youngspiration, were unseated from the Legislative Council over the oath-taking controversy. Since 2019 Hong Kong protests, localist groups are considered as part of the pro-democracy camp.


Post-80s movements

The localist groups emerged from the post-80s generation born in the 1980s, (Millennials in western terminology) social movements in the late 2000s. Many were inspired by the large-scale mass demonstration in 2003. 7.1 People Pile was one of the groups that came to exist after the demonstration. They were upset by rapid urban development which was sweeping away old neighbourhoods and communities. They were strongly opposed to the political and economic monopoly of vested interests, collusion between business and government and questioned the nature of the capitalist system in Hong Kong.[7] Coinciding with the widespread Chinese patriotism at the time was several emerging conservation movements led by young activists, such as Christina Chan, protesting against demolition of the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, Queen's Pier, and the buildings on Lee Tung Street (known as "Wedding Card Street") in 2006 and 2007. Protests against the construction of the Hong Kong section of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou (XRL) escalated in 2009 and 2010 and established a new high point of the localist movement.[7]

Right shift of localism

The failure of the peaceful anti-XRL protests damaged the reputation of the left-leaning moderate activists. Some turned to a more radical approach. Scholar Chin Wan published the book, On the Hong Kong City-State in 2011 which triggered fierce public debate and was popular among the young generation.[8] In the book, Chin suggests abandoning the hope for a democratic China and positions the democracy movement in a "localist" perspective, in order to counter Beijing's "neo-imperialist" policies toward Hong Kong. It analysed the potential threat of the influx of mainland tourists and immigrants to the established institutions and social customs of Hong Kong, which he considered likely to be part of a colonisation scheme by Beijing, including the increasing use of Mandarin Chinese and Simplified Chinese in daily use and schools. Since then, it has created a paradigm shift on Hong Kong local consciousness from the left-wing discourse of reinterpreting colonial history, cherishing the inclusive and diverse nature of the Hong Kong culture to the right-wing discourse of anti-Chinese sentiment and nostalgia for British rule.[7] Chin also tells his followers to use violent action as the means for defending Hong Kong's autonomy.

At the same time, the localists are hostile toward the pan-democracy camp, as they perceived the pan-democrats' cosmopolitanism as unrealistic and their wish for a democratic China at Hong Kong's expense, which they disagreed with the "Chinese patriotic" theme in the annual candlelight vigil for the Tiananmen protest of 1989 organised by the pro-democracy Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. They are also dissatisfied with the perceived ineffectiveness of the pan-democrats as the opposition party for the past 20 years. On the other hand, the right-wing populist tendency of the localist movements was condemned as "xenophobic" and "nativist" by mainstream left-wing activists and the government.[9] He suggested building Hong Kong into an autonomous city-state, merging the British culture with a restored Chinese culture. The conflict between the left and the right wings of the movement resulted in great disunity of the whole democratic cause.[10]

Umbrella Revolution and aftermath

The 79-day large-scale occupation protest was perceived to boost the local consciousness of the Hongkongers. Many new localist labelled "Umbrella groups" were formed after the protest. notably Youngspiration and Hong Kong Indigenous. Youngspiration took part in the 2015 District Council election with many other newcoming "Umbrella soldiers" and eventually won one seat out of nine candidates.[11] Hong Kong Indigenous is notable for its protest style, in which it calls for a "militant" approach with "some kind of clash", as opposed to pan-democrats' "gentle approach" of non-violent civil disobedience.[5]

There were also disaffection toward the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), the leading figure in the protests, resulted in a great split in the student federation. The localists launched a campaign quitting the HKFS. By the end of 2015, four of the eight student unions consisting the federation, the Hong Kong University Students' Union (HKUSU), the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students' Union (HKPUSU), the Hong Kong Baptist University Students' Union (HKBUSU) and the City University of Hong Kong Students' Union (CityUSU), broke up with the HKFS.

The Legislative Council by-election in New Territories East on 28 February 2016 was a milestone of the localist movements, as it was the first attempt for them to contest for the Legislative Council under localist banner.[12] Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous received a better-than expected result in the New Territories East by-election in February 2016 by taking more than 66,000 votes and gaining about 15 percent of the total votes. After the election, Leung claimed localism had gained a foothold as the third most important power in local politics, standing side by side with the pan-democracy and pro-Beijing camps.[13]

2016 Legislative Council election

A day after the 2016 New Territories East by-election, three localist groups, Wong Yuk-man's Proletariat Political Institute, Wong Yeung-tat's Civic Passion and Chin Wan's Hong Kong Resurgence Order, announced to run in the September Legislative Council election under the alliance "CP–PPI–HKRO".[14] On 10 April 2016. six localist groups Youngspiration, Kowloon East Community, Tin Shui Wai New Force, Cheung Sha Wan Community Establishment Power, Tsz Wan Shan Constructive Power and Tuen Mun Community, formed an electoral alliance under the name "ALLinHK" planned to field candidates in four of the five geographical constituencies with the agenda to put forward a referendum on Hong Kong's self-determination,[15] while Hong Kong Indigenous and another new pro-independence Hong Kong National Party also stated that they will run in the upcoming election. Demosisto, a left-leaning political party formed by Umbrella Revolution leaders Joshua Wong, Oscar Lai of the Scholarism and Nathan Law of the Hong Kong Federation of Students was also formed on the same day. The political party aimed to field candidates in the upcoming election with the platform of "self-determination" of Hong Kong future. It allied with veteran activist Eddie Chu who rose to fame in the 2006 Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier protest and university lecturer Lau Siu-lai who held class in the occupation sites in the 2014 occupy protest.

On 14 July 2016, the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) announced its plan to require all candidates to sign an additional "confirmation form" in the nomination to declare their understanding of Hong Kong being an inalienable part of China as stipulated in the Basic Law, in response to many potential localist candidates advocating or promoting Hong Kong independence.[16] After the end of the nomination period, six localist candidates received emails from the EAC which said their nominations were "invalidated". New Territories East constituency returning officer Cora Ho Lai-sheung rejected Leung's nomination on the basis that she did not trust Leung "genuinely changed his previous stance for independence."[17][18]

The localists scored a great victory in the election, winning six seats (excluding Claudia Mo) and securing of 19 per cent of the vote share (excluding Claudia Mo and Gary Fan). Occupy student leader Nathan Law of the Demosisto became the youngest ever candidate to be elected, Polytechnic University lecturer Lau Siu-lai and Eddie Chu, were returned in the geographical constituencies.[19]

Oath-taking controversy and disqualification

On 12 October 2016 the inaugural meeting of the Legislative Council, two Youngspiration legislators Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching took the oaths of office as the opportunity to make their pro-independence statement. The two first claimed that "As a member of the Legislative Council, I shall pay earnest efforts in keeping guard over the interests of the Hong Kong nation," displayed a "Hong Kong is not China" banner, inserted their own words into the oaths and mispronounced "People’s Republic of China" as "people’s re-fucking of Chee-na".[20] Their oaths were invalidated by the LegCo secretary-general Kenneth Chen and was subsequently challenged by the government in the court. On 7 November 2016, the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) interpreted the Article 104 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong to "clarify" the provision of the legislators to swear allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China when they take office. The spokesman of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office stated that "[Beijing] will absolutely neither permit anyone advocating secession in Hong Kong nor allow any pro-independence activists to enter a government institution."[21] As a consequence, the court disqualified the two legislators on 15 November.[22]


Despite the controversies over "who are localists?" due to the vague concept of localism and the vague platforms of the localists groups, the localist groups can be loosely categorised into the following factions:

Minor factions

Electoral performance

Legislative Council elections

Election Number of
popular votes
% of
popular votes
Total seats +/−
2016 411,893Steady 19.00Steady 6 0
6 / 70

See also


  1. ^ 梁, 逸風 (5 September 2016). "二營對立變三分天下 本土和自決派奪兩成票". 香港01 (in Chinese). Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  2. ^ "Hong Kong suffers identity crisis as China's influence grows". The Guardian. 18 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Localism: Why is support for the political perspective growing - and who's behind it?". 1 July 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  4. ^ 李, 立峯 (7 July 2016). "從不滿政治到不滿社會:本土派和民主派支持者的差異". Ming Pao. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  5. ^ a b Hewitt, Duncan (8 April 2015). "Hong Kong's Clashes Over Mainland Shoppers Show Rising Cultural Tensions With China". International Business Times.
  6. ^ "旺角騷亂 京定性本土激進分離組織策動 議員:為23條立法鋪路". Apple Daily. 13 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b c 羅永生. "香港本土意識的前世今生". 思想.
  8. ^ Hung, Ho Fung (3 November 2014). "Three Views of Local Consciousness in Hong Kong 香港 地元の意識、三つの視点". The Asia-Pacific Journal. 12 (44).
  9. ^ Lau, Stuart (10 June 2013). "Independent thinker Horace Chin treads bold path". South China Morning Post.
  10. ^ Chang, Ping (9 June 2013). "Will a democratic China harm Hong Kong?". South China Morning Post.
  11. ^ "Out with the old: Two big-name pan-democrats ousted in tight district council election races". South China Morning Post. 23 November 2015.
  12. ^ "【馬嶽.評新東補選】66,524票從何而來?". HK01. 29 February 2016.
  13. ^ Chung, Kang-chung (2 March 2016). "All Around Town: So which Hong Kong politician keeps gunning for losing candidate?". South China Morning Post.
  14. ^ "本土組織將派5人出選立會 陳雲或出戰新界東". Apple Daily. 29 February 2016.
  15. ^ "青年新政等六組織 組聯盟戰立會 倡2021香港自決公投". Stand News. 10 April 2016.
  16. ^ Ng, Joyce; Ng, Kang-chung (14 July 2016). "'Accept Hong Kong is part of China or you can't run in Legco elections'". South China Morning Post.
  17. ^ Ng, Joyce (2 August 2016). "Hong Kong Indigenous' Edward Leung disqualified from Legco elections". South China Morning Post.
  18. ^ Cheng, Kris (2 August 2016). "Edward Leung has not genuinely switched from pro-independence stance, says election official". Hong Kong Free Press.
  19. ^ "Rise of localists in Hong Kong polls set to bring headaches for Beijing, analysts say". South China Morning Post. 5 September 2016.
  20. ^ "Declaration of war as Hong Kong's newly elected lawmakers plunge opening session into chaos". South China Morning Post. 12 October 2016.
  21. ^ "Hong Kong will move on controversial security law, CY Leung says, as Beijing bars independence activists from Legco". South China Morning Post. 7 November 2016.
  22. ^ "Hong Kong court rules localist lawmakers must vacate Legco seats". South China Morning Post. 15 November 2016.
  23. ^ "立會票王朱凱廸:他們要民族自決,我要民主自決". The Initium. 7 September 2016.
  24. ^ "Why Beijing's headache over calls for Hong Kong's independence has only just begun". South China Morning Post. 26 August 2016.
  25. ^ "I support independence over autonomy". Stand News. 15 January 2015./
  26. ^ "旺角年初一爆警民衝突 警放催淚彈商販市民爭相走避". TMHK. 26 January 2020./
  27. ^ "HK activists seek return to British rule as first step to independence". The Strait Times. 23 June 2015.
  28. ^ "港獨黨拒中國人當技術員". Ta Kung Pao. 4 April 2015.