Almost 40 percent of young people in Hong Kong favor independence for the city in 2047, when existing arrangements with China expire, a recent opinion survey has found.
Nearly two out of five people in the 15-24 age group said they want the city to go its own way when the "one country, two systems" policy, promised under the terms of the city's 1997 handover to China, ends.
The findings appeared in a recent survey by public opinion researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), who interviewed 1,010 people aged 15 and above between July 6 and 15.
Across the whole age range, 17.4 percent said they favor independence post-2047, compared with 39.2 percent of the 15-24 age group.
However, nearly three in 10 expressed no preference, while less than four percent said they believe independence is a possibility for the former British colony.
A university student surnamed Yip said the survey rang true for him, as around half of his friends are in favor of independence.
"I think a lot of young people are very disappointed in the Chinese government, or the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party," Yip said. "Also, a number of events in recent years have changed people's views about Hong Kong's future."
"The picture isn't looking very good. For example, the Chinese government has refused to allow us to hold fully democratic elections," he said.
"Everything is now controlled by a handful of people in the political and financial elite."
Unity pledge demand
The survey comes amid a row over forthcoming elections to the city's legislature, where candidates have been asked for the first time in the city's history to sign a form pledging to uphold the principle that Hong Kong is "an inalienable part of China."
A number of pro-independence candidates have announced their bids to run in the Sept. 4 Legislative Council (LegCo) elections.
But the city's Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) announced on July 14 that all candidates must sign the additional declaration, warning that those who refuse could be disqualified.
Two LegCo hopefuls, League of Social Democrats chairman Avery Ng, and Edward Leung, leader of the pro-independence group Hong Kong Indigenous, applied for a judicial review on Monday to challenge the powers of the election watchdog in vetting candidates.
Hong Kong was promised a "high degree of autonomy" under the terms of its 1997 handover to China, while Article 26 of the Basic Law guarantees the city's residents the right to vote in and stand for elections.
Chan Ho-tin, LegCo election hopeful and leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), said the EAC had recently emailed him asking for clarification of his views on independence, in spite of having received his declaration.
"The email had as an attachment a bunch of press cuttings in which I had made various comments, as if to prove my stance on Hong Kong independence," Chan told RFA.
"The other attachment was a letter which ... asked me to clarify my views on independence, even though I did sign the declaration," he said.
Chan, who has sworn an oath to protect the Basic Law, said he wouldn't reply.
"There is no basis in law for this," he said. "Rather, I would like to ask them on what [legal] basis they are investigating my political views."
The judicial review applications will be handled in an urgent hearing on Wednesday, court officials said.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Lam Kwok-lap for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.