The Pro Democracy Movement Makes Major Gains In Hong Kong Elections
The first elections to take place since the pro-democracy protest movement became daily life in Hong Kong led to dramatic gains for activists. Pro-democracy supporters competed for each of the 452 wards up for grabs in the district council elections. The Guardian reports.
People turned out in record numbers to eject pro-Beijing politicians from district councils they had controlled across the city. They held on to little over 10 percent of the 452 openly contested seats.
Pro-democracy candidates won a majority of seats on all 18 councils, although they will only control 17 because a large number of government appointees shifted the balance of power in the Islands district.
By all metrics, the election showed to be the highest representation of democratic participation in the history of Hong Kong. More than 71% of the electorate took part in the elections, representing more than 3 million people, and half of the entire population. “Whatever happens, Hong Kong is always a part of China and any attempts to create chaos in Hong Kong or to jeopardize its prosperity and stability will not be successful,” said Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi while in Japan. Ironically, China is known as being one of the least democratic nations on the planet, having stagnated any challenges to the rule of the countries Communist Party.
Yi would also caution to wait until the final electoral result, despite the results already being overwhelmingly conclusive, “It’s not the final result yet. Let’s wait for the final result, OK? However, it is clear that no matter what happens, Hong Kong is a part of China and a special administrative region of China.”
Joseph Cheng who is a retired political science professor from the City University of Hong Kong gave his analysis of the election while speaking to The Guardian, “They have not given up on their support for the pro-democracy camp and the protesters. This is a slap on the cheek for Carrie Lam’s administration who insisted that the silent majority was supporting the government.”
Cheng believes if Chief Executive Carrie Lam refuses to act on the wishes of pro-democracy politicians after the sweeping victory, then protests will likely continue. Other scholars hope China listens to the voices of the Hong Kong people, yet such a response isn’t likely when studying rhetoric from the Chinese government. Unfortunately, it’s possible through pro-Chinese politicians still within the government that Hong Kong ignores the overwhelming will of the voters. If so, protests could further escalate in the upcoming weeks.
Lam says she recognizes the results show Hong Kong is unhappy with her administration, and she wishes to listen. Whether those statements are true, or her backers in China allow her to make any pro-democracy concessions remains an open question. As stated above, it’s unlikely China will allow the election results to appear as a loss for them.
The ‘five demands’ of the pro-democracy movement will be a major point of contention in the upcoming months. The withdrawal of the extradition bill (which originally led to the massive protest movement) is the only demand the Hong Kong government has granted to date. The other four are: retract the classification of a June 12th protest as a riot; amnesty for the approximately 4,500 protestors placed under arrest since the movement began; and universal suffrage regarding the election of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council.
While the pro-democracy movement is far from achieving the majority of their goals, the district council elections will go a long way in showing the international community how the citizens of Hong Kong feel about their current situation. Despite the positive election results, it’s unlikely the pro-democracy movement rests until substantial changes are implemented into Basic Law.