Hong Kong district council elections: A wake-up call
CGTN's Liu Xin
Anti-establishment candidates have claimed three-quarters of the seats up for grabs in Hong Kong's lowest-level elections. Both voter turnout and the number of voters set records. Victorious candidates and many media are calling this a vote of distrust for the Hong Kong Special Administration Region government. While their victory is a fact, some details deserve closer examination.
The timing has been particularly bad for the pro-establishment camp. Memories and wounds from five months of disruption and violence are still fresh, and many controversial cases are still under investigation.
The HKSAR government, however, opted not to postpone the vote to avoid stoking more confrontation, thus denying a chance for sentiments to cool down. In the 2003 elections, Hong Kong experienced a similar defeat for the pro-establishment camp after mass protests over a proposed national security law.
But this time, the odds were greater because of the enhanced severity and scale of unrest.
It has not been a fair game. Pro-establishment candidates and their supporters faced widespread harassment and intimidation. One candidate was stabbed in broad daylight. As their supporters are mostly older residents, on election day, they experienced great obstacles and even verbal abuse from opposition candidates.
There were no special lanes for them, which means they were forced to wait up to hours on their feet. The great majority of pan-democracy supporters, who are mostly young, strategized to finish voting in the morning, which created harsher conditions for their white-haired counterparts.
The preliminary results show a ratio of 350 vs. 45 seats between the anti-and pro-establishment camps. Many are hailing this a "triumph of public opinion," but the victory is not as much of a landslide as it seems. Against the backdrop of a doubled number of voters, many of them young people, the pro-establishment side still managed to secure 40 percent of the popular votes, a rather difficult feat to pull off.
Junius Ho, the pro-establishment candidate who was stabbed, won some five hundred more votes than he did in the last election.
But because of the huge number of young voters mobilized by his opponent, he still lost the race. An older couple told me, if the election were any barometer of public opinion, it was only one for the young people.
The outcome of this election will create negative consequences for Hong Kong, at least in the near term. The bar for the tolerance of violence could be raised. Unrest in the future could be greater. So could the social chasm between the pro-and anti-establishment groups and different generations.
What's most worrying is the potential challenge against the "One Country, Two Systems" arrangement.
A Frenchman who voted for the establishment in the elections told the press this protest movement is not about democracy. It's about separation from China. Before the final results were in, some anti-establishment winners already held a press conference calling for the advancement of the so-called five demands insisted on by the protesters, including western-style universal suffrage.
They also called for the resignation of Hong Kong's current chief executive Carrie Lam – clearly another tentative step forward in their quest for future control of Hong Kong.
It will be a long and painful process to try and ensure that Hong Kong will always be stewarded by people who love the city and China, as stipulated in its Basic Law.
Lessons will have to be learned by everyone who loves China and Hong Kong, first and foremost, how to win the minds and hearts of young people.
This election can at least serve as a wake-up call!
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