HONG KONG VERDICT IS A SETBACK FOR CHINESE PRESIDENT
The defeat has been monstrous for the Chinese president Xi Jinping. The ruling establishment of China has never imagined in its dreams that the young Pro-Democracy candidates of Hong Kong would show the Chinese veterans their right places.
The present government of Xi claims to be a communist dispensation, but the fact remains otherwise. Had the present government really owed the Marxists-Leninist and Maoist Legacy, it would certainly not have made the demand of more democracy by the people a major prestige issue.
Pro-democracy candidates buoyed by almost two years of street protests in Hong Kong won a stunning victory in local elections on Sunday, as record numbers voted in a vivid expression of the city’s aspirations and its anger with the Chinese government. Chinese communist rulers could have sorted out the issue long back if they had looked at the demands of the protesters with objective perspective. Their ignoring the demand with contempt simply underlines the element of elite and feudal arrogance the Chinese leadership nursed.
It was a pointed rebuke to Beijing and its allies in Hong Kong, by the protesters. It is absolutely clearly that Chinese communists have lost relevance for the younger people of the state. Young Hong Kongers, a major force behind the demonstrations of the past six months, played a leading role in the voting surge.
How the Chinese leaders would analyse the verdict is not yet clear, but one thing is absolutely clear that had they adopted a pragmatic approach, this situation must not have developed.With three million voters casting ballots, pro-democracy candidates captured 389 of 452 elected seats, up from only 124 and far more than they have ever won. The government’s allies held just 58 seats, a remarkable collapse from 300.
Through this verdict the people have outright rejected the Chinese leadership. The new elected representatives would be free now to adopt the issues which they were raising as the democratic demand and turn them into law. The new leadership will be free to completely change the legal contour. The Chinese leadership will be free to revert and reject their recommendations, but they would resorting to such action at their own peril.
One development is quite clear that there has been a very deep awakening of the Hong Kong people, as said by Alan Leong, chairman of the Civic Party, one of the largest pro-democracy parties. It is politically correct to describe this result as a referendum on Chinese authority. There is no denying that this election took on outsize significance, and was viewed as a referendum on the unrest that has created the city’s worst political crisis in decades.
While the result will lower the prestige of China in the global arena, the gains at the ballot box will embolden the democracy movement that has struggled with how to balance peaceful and violent protests to achieve its goals. It would also deepen the challenges for China’s central government, which wants to curb the unrest in Hong Kong. And they might exacerbate Beijing’s fears about giving the city’s residents even greater say in choosing their government.
The district councils are among the most democratic bodies in Hong Kong. Almost all the seats are directly elected, unlike the legislature, where the proportion is just over half. The territory’s chief executive is also not chosen directly by voters, but is instead selected by a committee stacked in favour of Beijing. The election results will give democracy forces considerably more influence on that committee, which is scheduled to choose a new chief executive in 2022.
Some analysts had predicted that pro-democracy candidates would have difficulty making big gains as the Pro-Beijing candidates are much better financed and backed by the most powerful regime. But the results send the message that the people have made up their minds, Look at voters turnout soared to 71 percent, far surpassing expectations. Typically in district council elections, it is little more than 40 percent. Four years ago, after the 2014 Umbrella Movement increased public interest in politics, turnout climbed to 47 percent. This year, the number of registered voters hit a record.
It is significant to watch that most of the prominent pro-Beijing politicians lost their election which they had not expected. This developments simply underlines that the younger generation was getting more politically engaged. They cherish the deep desire that government should listen to them. In the district of Tuen Mun, hundreds of people celebrated with cheers and champagne the defeat of Junius Ho, a controversial lawmaker many protesters accused of supporting mob attacks against them.
Instead of just focusing on local issues, many pro-democracy candidates ran on the broad themes of the protest movement, especially anger at police brutality, and the intensity of the demonstrations sometimes spilled into the race. The outcome of the election would undoubtedly complicate the position of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive. Critics say that she has failed to engage with the community over the protests and many have demanded she step down.
As of noon on Monday, voters had delivered 17 of the city’s 18 districts to pro-democracy candidates. All of the districts were previously controlled by pro-Beijing parties. There is a general perception that the election results may embolden protesters to call for their other demands to be met. These include the exoneration of the thousands of protesters arrested to date, as well as Lam’s ouster.
On her part the chief executive acknowledged that the results could be attributed to “dissatisfaction with the current situation and the deep-seated problems in society.”