A group of Hong Kong activists are demanding a return to British rule as a stepping stone towards independence, as fears grow that Beijing is tightening its grip on the southern Chinese city.
Pro-independence advocates have launched The Alliance to Resume British Sovereignty over Hong Kong and Independence party, the second political group in recent months to advocate a breakaway from China.
“Independence is the ultimate goal, to return to British rule is just a transitional phase,” Billy Chiu, the Alliance’s leader told AFP on Wednesday.
The activists said they believed it would be easier to gain independence from Britain than China.
“An independent nation is Hong Kong’s only way out,” Chiu said, adding that the new party, which consists of around 30 members, will be formally announced on Sunday.
Chiu in 2013 broke into a People’s Liberation Army facility in central Hong Kong holding up a colonial flag and asking the PLA to “get out” of the city.
Hong Kong was handed back to Beijing in 1997, with the Sino-British Joint Declaration preserving its liberties for 50 years as a special administrative region. It has remained an autonomous territory since, governed under China’s “one country, two systems” principle, affording Hong Kong freedom not enjoyed on the mainland. However, in recent years, citizens have begun criticising the Chinese government for attempting to interfere politically and clamp down on Hong Kong’s privileges.
In 2014, scores of citizens held a series of sit-in protests from September to December against the Beijing-backed proposal for limited democracy in the Honk Kong elections. Occupying the financial district of the city and elsewhere, the movement came to be known as the ‘Umbrella Movement’. The protests fizzled out by the end of 2014 as public opinion turned given that local businesses were suffering.