Election during a crisis: Hong Kong

Who won the Hong Kong election? And who is trying “fishing in the murky water” of the crisis?

How “unimportant” elections in Hong Kong turned into a protest against Beijing’s dictatorship

 

Hong Kong Election: Political Resistance to Power in China

The vote came a record number of residents. Most supported the mood of the protesters.

In Hong Kong, democratic opposition candidates receive a win-win victory in local elections. Many perceived this election as a kind of referendum on supporting the protest movement in the city. Why the election, which had not been paying attention, have become “a litmus test” sentiment of Hong Kong, and how respond to the preliminary results in PRC.

Retrospection of the elections

In Hong Kong, on November 24, against the backdrop of anti-government protests, local elections started. Despite concerns that the vote could be disrupted or canceled due to unrest, it went peacefully.

In local elections, Hong Kong elects 452 district council members out of more than 1,000 candidates. They do not have real powers, and are mainly engaged in advising the Hong Kong government on issues that affect the welfare of citizens of the autonomy. That is, members of district councils in 18 districts solve only “everyday issues”, such as public transport and the work of public utilities.

In addition, in accordance with the Hong Kong electoral system, 117 elected district representatives will sit on a committee of 1,200 people who elect the head of the Hong Kong government.

A platform of opposition movements, also called pro-democratic forces, said its mission is to convey the voice of people who have protested in Hong Kong in recent months – to Beijing.

Supporters of the central government urged those who wanted to express their indignation at the riot that protesters had set up in the city to vote for them.

This year, 2.9 million people took part in the vote; the turnout was 71% and became a record. In 2015, it was much lower – 47%, because Hongkongers considered elections to district councils unimportant.

Voting as an “indicator of sentiment in society”

Against the background of riots and mass protests, the will of November 24 became a kind of identifier of the sentiments of Hong Kong residents. In China, it was expected  that the so-called “silent majority” would vote for Beijing’s supporters and opponents of the Protestants. In turn, the “Democrats” were waiting for confirmation of the protest sentiment of all Hong Kong.

These polls were the first when people could express their opinions on polling stations regarding the crisis and the methods of government of the head of administration Carrie Lam and the pro-Beijing government.

The China Daily state newspaper wrote that the election could be the moment that will bring Hong Kong back to normal and stop the unrest that lasts from June this year. The weekend, November 23-24, was the first in the last few months without any clashes between the protesters and the police.

“Given the current difficult situation, I’m glad to note that the elections were held in a relatively calm and peaceful atmosphere,” Kerry Lem commented on the situation after the polls closed.

What does the defeat of pro-Beijing candidates mean

According to preliminary data, pro-democracy forces will control 17 of the 18 district councils of the city and this fundamentally change the political situation in Hong Kong, because before that all district councils were under control of pro-Beijing politicians.

The victory in their constituencies has already been won by 201 opposition candidates against only 28 candidates who support Beijing. Another 12 candidates are considered independent. The results of another 211 seats in the district councils are not yet known. Prior to this, the majority of the seats were occupied by pro-Beijing proteges.

Such results will force the leadership of the Communist Party in Beijing, which supported the Hong Kong government during the confrontation with the demonstrators, to reconsider their approach.

In the end, victory in local elections can sow the seeds of a greater long-term influence on power for the Democrats, since they are happy to play a role in choosing the mayor and some legislative bodies.

“Hong Kong is ours.” The reaction of the PRC

In Beijing, they cautiously reacted to unexpected results of their will. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that no matter what the outcome of the local elections in Hong Kong, he was and remains Chinese.

“Any attempt to harm or hinder prosperity and stability in Hong Kong will not succeed,” the diplomat told reporters after meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

And the protests in Hong Kong do not stop from June of this year. After the local government decided to pass a law on the extradition of suspects in mainland China. People regarded this as an encroachment on freedom, because in this way China can persecute the opposition.

On June 15, the head of the Hong Kong Administration, Carrie Lam, announced that the consideration of the extradition bill to the PRC was suspended for an indefinite period. However, the protests did not stop. The protesters demanded a final rejection of this law, the resignation of Kerry Lam and an investigation into the actions of the police during the demonstrations.

 

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