On the ground with Tom Fowdy: What now for Hong Kong
Editor's note: Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain, and the U.S. In this video, he reflected on the results of the Hong Kong District Council elections and shared his thoughts on how Hong Kong can move forward following the elections. Opinions expressed in the video are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of CGTN.
The 2019 local and district council elections ended in a landslide defeat for government associated parties and an overwhelming victory for the opposition parties, following a record surge in voter turnout owing to the political crisis which has swept the city since the summer.
With local tensions running high, it is inevitable that many voters would be mobilized like never before, meaning the status quo was never expected to remain intact. Certainly, it is a surprise for local authorities.
The bigger question is, what happens now in Hong Kong? How do we move forwards together? Although district councils wield very little power and cannot fundamentally alter the status quo in the city, nevertheless the way forward has to be pragmatic and balanced. Many residents have made their voice heard and voted with their feet, and now it is important to accordingly engage in dialogue and compromise.
What is clear is that the city's autonomy matters to them. Whilst some of their fears have been dramatically overstated and sometimes abused politically by some, it is important these sentiments are no longer ignored.
However, if the rift between the authorities and residents is to be properly healed and reconnected this must be a two-way and constructive process. Citizenship is not just about making demands, but also about one's broader obligations to society. Thus whilst their voices can be heard, the public themselves must be prepared to come to reason on certain matters if this is to work.
First of all, if things are to move forwards in the city, locals must take a zero tolerance approach to radical and violent protesters. Peaceful means now must prevail. The public has made their voice heard through the opposition parties, but if their voices are to be taken earnestly they must end any sympathy or tolerance they have for the pursuit of destructive and violent activities.
Extreme disorder is destroying the local economy and are plunging the city into recession. In the long run the effects of such continual decline will begin to bite hard. Whilst some have persistently blamed the police, as a part of successful dialogue the public must be willing to first comprehend that local authorities cannot be expected to concede on legitimate matters of law enforcement and holding those who have pursued violence to account. This is not political oppression.
Secondly, if dialogue and progress is to be made on local concerns relating to autonomy, the general public must become more accepting of Hong Kong’s status as a part of China in a pragmatic way. Nobody is looking to take away the city's autonomy or to abolish the SAR system.
However, more radical subsets of protesters and certain individuals have sought to utilize this crisis in order to pursue an agenda of permanently separating the city from China, drawing in foreign powers such as the United States and challenging the city’s autonomy and territorial integrity. This is not acceptable to China and in turn makes authorities unable to compromise. Again, these radical fringes have to be disowned. The principle of "One Country, Two Systems" must be upheld as an unconditional line for dialogue.
If these basic principles can be met, political space can surely be established in order to rectify the concerns of locals, create dialogue and re-establish trust and order in Hong Kong. As much as people are aggrieved, this cannot be a shopping list of demands on a threat of ransom through more violence and disruption by certain groups. Both sides here now have a civic responsibility to engage in necessary introspection, acknowledge mistakes and aim to clear up misunderstandings that have polarized the city in recent months.
Thus, the way forward for Hong Kong must as a whole closely follow the guiding principles of stability, order, dialogue and compromise. Many now have made their voices heard, however these requests must come with a renewed commitment to good willed and law abiding citizenship.
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