Analysts and investors largely agree that sounds far-fetched — even accounting for U.S. President Donald Trump's willingness to break longstanding norms — though some wouldn't completely rule it out.
Andy Chan Ho-tin, a member of the Hong Kong National Party, says China poses an increasing existential threat to local rights and freedoms since British colonial rule ended in 1997. He has become a local lightning rod, criticized by many for advocating independence but also seen as a symbol of free speech after Chinese and Hong Kong officials called for a public address of his this week to be canceled.
In that address, he called for the U.S. to review legislation that governs its relations with the territory, condemn Hong Kong government officials he claimed suppress human rights and potentially target mainland Chinese financial assets in Hong Kong.
"Think about how much more clout the U.S. would have on China if the current trade war extends to Hong Kong," he said Tuesday in the closely watched speech to the city's Foreign Correspondents' Club, adding that such a move could strike a real "economic blow" to Beijing.
"Many of the Chinese already store their actual capital here," Chan said.
The politician's call for Hong Kong to break away does not appear to be widely shared and police have called for the party to be banned on national security grounds. Both Chinese and Hong Kong authorities say independence is out of the question.
And while many analysts have expressed concern over the threat to Hong Kong posed in recent years by tighter Chinese control, experts deemed the city unlikely to play a role in the trade war.
"I think the Hong Kong issue is not something that is right up there on the Trump hit list," Tim Summers, a lecturer in Chinese studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told CNBC.
"The U.S. government's basic strategic interests are in Hong Kong continuing to be treated separate from the rest of China for all sorts of economic, financial, business reasons," he said. "And that's why these policy instruments are in place."