Dear Lord Patten,

I used to like you. I really did. As someone in his mid-thirties now I had the joy of living in Hong Kong through your governorship, during the period I often call Hong Kong’s “golden years”. Generations of Hongkongers have immense admiration for you, even youngsters who grew up after the handover and know nothing of life in the last of Hong Kong’s colonial days. This page alone cannot do justice to your contributions to furthering democracy in this city, so I will not even try.

Chris Patten speaking at the FCC in Hong Kong. Photo: HKFP.

Comments made during your recent visit, however, leave me wondering whether a combination of too much time spent away from Hong Kong and possibly old age have eroded your conviction in the pro-democracy movement and diminished your understanding of the territory’s current state of affairs.

On multiple occasions, you seemingly went out of your way to denounce localist sentiments and calls for independence. You claimed to be a “huge admirer of China”, just not of the Chinese Communist Party. That’s very politically correct, and is precisely where you and a growing number of Hongkongers stop seeing eye-to-eye.

Unlike you, I thoroughly detest the People’s Re-Fucking of Chee-na, and much of what it has come to represent. It hurts me dearly to write such a thing, to explicitly label oneself as antagonistic towards one’s own ethnicity. Cast aside the nostalgia that is perhaps clouding your judgement, and take a good look at what integration with China has done to Hong Kong society. There is really not much to like, let alone admire.

Many of the social and economic grievances that have motivated the independence movement are not related to the CCP at all. Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city that receives millions of foreign visitors each year, but the Chinese in particular strut around our streets shamelessly flaunting a profound sense of “entitlement”.

One need not cite the countless cases of visitors erupting into violent nationalistic diatribes when criticized for uncouth behavior. Or the recent drama of a tourist beating a local grandma so badly she developed walking and speech impediments, because of a verbal argument. Chinese students taking up our university places bring with them scholastic aptitude but also their mainland ethics (or lack thereof), turning innocuous student council elections into bribe-fests.

Hong Kong independence banner at the July 1st protest. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Meanwhile our non-elected SAR government kow-tows to Beijing’s every whim, never finding fault with anything that originates from north of Lo Wu. Riot police are deployed zealously to defend their right to shop in our city. Billions of taxpayer dollars that could have been spent on poverty relief, public housing, or education are instead poured into a lousy theme park with a decade-long money losing streak because our mainland compatriots want more Mickey Mouse and Iron Man. To top it off, every single day, ubiquitous food safety scandals in China inevitably trickle down to our dinner plates, whether it be recycled moon cake or toxic hairy crab.

Is it really so difficult to understand this resentment? Mind you, I haven’t even gotten to the part about China kidnapping our citizens, rigging our elections, and rewriting our textbooks.

You say independence is “delusional”. It is no more delusional than tolerating the status quo as sitting ducks until 2047 when the iron curtain falls. The backlash against China is rational and justified. Not because it makes for fiery, arousing speeches but because it actually resonates with people and their immediate concerns. Perhaps it is still a fringe movement, but the audience for pro-independence rhetoric and actions will only broaden with time. Association with the mainland has only brought Hong Kong the negative externalities that accompany China’s rise, the filth that results from half a century of cultural evolution without a soul or moral compass, and the sinister machinations of a country without any respect for civility and equality. Why not rid ourselves of this Sick Man of East Asia?

Protesters protesting Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law in October. Photo: HKFP.

Barack Obama wrote a book entitled the “Audacity of Hope”. I will admit I never read the book but I admire the title, as it aptly sums up the case for independence. The notion of a Hong Kong civil society free from Chinese elements represents a glimmer of hope when all other avenues have failed. The activists you label “dishonest, dishonorable, and reckless” dare to believe in the possibility of something better, no matter how unrealistic or impractical it may seem now, or how overwhelming the odds. You question their “moral ground” but let me tell you, they care deeply about this city.

Maybe you will recall a Chinese-language public service announcement ad on television during the 1990s that began with “Hong Kong is not the most beautiful city in the world, but it is our home” (an imperfect translation; I never managed to catch the English version.)

At a time when social discourse in Hong Kong is hampered by feelings of helplessness and inequality, these people you attack have chosen to take a leap of faith. And so should you. Otherwise, grab some of those Tai Cheung egg tarts you fancy, and go home. You have done your bit for Hong Kong, and we are forever grateful. But your part in this tale is over.

Frank Siu

Frank Siu is a financial econometrician working in the private sector. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he takes a keen interest in local affairs, particularly issues of rising social inequality and deepening political uncertainty. He enjoys curry fish balls and rubik's cubes.