Pro-Democracy Candidates Win In Hong Kong Election
Pro-Democracy Candidates Win In Hong Kong Election
The results are in for the district council elections in Hong Kong, and it’s a landslide victory for the pro-democracy groups.
These elections are the equivalent of city council elections. Hong Kong has 18 districts, and while the district councillors handle more municipal-level issues, voting for a pro-democracy candidate was seen as a peaceful, non-violent way to protest against China.
District councils are elected on four-year terms, and largely handle local affairs. They lack much in terms of real power, serving mainly to advise the government on issues affecting their neighborhoods and the allocation of funds for local projects.”
The vote has taken on an outsized importance in recent years, however, as a way of signaling wider discontent about the slow pace of political reform. Ahead of Sunday’s vote, pro-Beijing parties controlled all 18 district councils, so any victory for the broader pro-democracy camp will inevitably be cast as a win for protesters.”
More than 2.9 million people took part in Sunday’s poll, with a turnout rate of 71.2% — a record high, based on the highest-ever amount of registered-voters, according to Barnabus Fung, the chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission.”
People were not going to miss their chance to have their voices heard, especially after months of ongoing protests.
This vote will have an immediate impact on Hong Kong’s current government structure, which is sure to annoy communist China.
The dramatically changing colour of the 452-member district council map from the predominantly blue stronghold of the pro-Beijing ranks, which held 292 seats before the polls, to the pan-democratic camp’s yellow hue became clear from early on as counting began when polls closed at 10.30pm.”
The pro-Beijing camp had only managed to secure 42 seats, as of 7am. Independents, who are not endorsed by either camp, have won 24 seats.”
Since the pro-democracy bloc have won majorities on nearly all of the district councils, they are likely to be awarded about 120 seats on the election committee that selects the city’s chief executive.”
The biggest question is now, what happens next? Will the pro-democracy win result in less protest violence – by both the protestors and the police? Will this shift the stand-off, hands-off approach to protests that the Chinese military in Hong Kong have had so far? Will the election results embolden President Trump to actually sign the Congressional bill supporting the pro-democracy movement within Hong Kong?
It’s clear that the pro-democracy win is meant to be a referendum on the current leadership, especially the current executive, Carrie Lam. The pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), is certain to see a re-organization in the wake of these elections. Will Lam remain the executive? It’s unlikely. Beijing will want a hardliner to lead “their” party, and the pro-democracy crowd will not tolerate Lam staying on as leader. So Lam’s political days are numbered. Who will be the next executive? The pro-democracy groups have enough seats to get one of their preferred candidates in place, but I expect that Beijing will do everything it can to prevent that.
Will there be less violence? It depends on the reaction from Beijing. The protestors scaled back on any violent action before the elections, and according to reports, no one covered their faces or wore masks to go vote. We do know that there are Chinese military troops within Hong Kong, but up until this point, all they have apparently done is clear roads and blockades after protests. The Hong Kong police have been the ones firing live rounds at protestors and laying siege to Polytechnic University. I think each side may wait to see what the other side’s first move is, and then respond.
Will President Trump sign the Hong Kong bill that Congress passed? As I said last week, the president is trying to split the difference between his support for the pro-democracy groups and his desire for a China trade agreement. The bill is currently sitting on his desk, being vetted by White House lawyers. Will he simply “pocket veto” it, and allow it to become law? That doesn’t seem to be Trump’s style. I still think he is more likely to veto it outright, as disappointing as that would be, and rely on Congress to override him, and thus allow both sides to “save face” in trade negotiations. I don’t think the strength of the election results is likely to change President Trump’s mind in this case. That’s unfortunate, despite his claims for credit in staying China’s hand against Hong Kong.
The pro-democracy groups have scored a moral victory without a single act of violence at the polls, and for that, everyone can be grateful. Hong Kong is still on a razor’s edge of uncertainty, despite this election. The voters of Hong Kong have thrown down a gauntlet. We now wait to see how China “responds,” in both word and deed.