Hong Kong has chosen democracy

The stunning results in Hong Kong’s elections show where the people’s loyalty lies.

Jingan Young

Topics Politics World

It was a tense hour after the polls closed in Hong Kong on Sunday evening. An unprecedented 2.94million citizens – 72 per cent of the electorate – cast their vote in the district council elections, compared to just 47 per cent at the previous elections. Many had never voted before. The day was by and large peaceful. It was one of the first Sundays in months when no tear gas was deployed by the police.

This election was effectively a referendum on the pro-democracy protests. The democracy movement has involved all parts of the city and people from all walks of life. We have all grown frustrated by the government’s refusal to open a dialogue with protesters. The police have responded with brute force. For the past six months, the city has resembled a warzone. Students are forced to defend themselves from the police with homemade Molotov cocktails. Ordinary citizens are tear-gassed as they ride the MTR train to work.

The incompetent Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s unelected leader, has had no political answer to the protests. Her government is simply carrying out orders from Beijing. Legally speaking, Hong Kong is supposed to be a semi-autonomous region of China until 2047. But ever since the city was handed back to China by Britain in 1997, the Chinese authorities have been encroaching on our civil liberties – at first gradually and now rapidly.

But on Sunday, something miraculous happened. One of the first results of the night showed that Joshua Li, a pro-democracy Civil Party candidate, had captured a previously pro-Beijing seat, the Mei Foo North constituency. This was shortly followed by democrat Eddie Chan beating another pro-Beijing candidate. And so it continued throughout the night: Occupy activists, veterans and former journalists were winning seats. Some were newcomers to the movement, like the 23-year-old former bank employee Jocelyn Chau. She had been arrested and even punched in the head by a man in the street while campaigning. But she won her seat in the end. Candidates in the pro-democracy camp continued to unseat their pro-Beijing rivals in apparently safe seats in every district. Many seats were also contested for the first time.

One of the most celebrated moments of the evening was Junius Ho’s humiliating loss. Ho’s unrelenting support of the Beijing government and of the violent crackdown on protesters has made him widely despised. Ho’s defeat in Tuen Mun by democrat Lo Chun-yu provoked raucous celebrations on the streets.

By Monday morning, the results were in. Pro-democracy candidates secured 17 out of 18 districts. They now hold 388 of the 452 seats – over 90 per cent – while pro-Beijing candidates were reduced to 58 seats. Back in 2015, pro-Beijing candidates held a majority of 298 of 431 seats. Although Hong Kongers do not have the power directly to elect the chief executive, pro-democracy candidates will have a much greater say than usual in selecting the government, with 117 of the district councillors sitting on the deciding committee.

Chinese state newspapers such as the Global Times attempted to downplay the landslide win for the democracy movement by blaming Western inference. Other pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong falsely claimed that democrats were threatening young voters. International observers did, however, see evidence of pro-Beijing candidates bribing voters with cash and food parcels.

After the results came in, Lam said she would respect the vote and ‘listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect’. But it remains to be seen what her next steps will be – or indeed if Beijing, in the wake of this embarrassment, will replace her with a far more authoritarian figure to quash the democracy movement.

Beijing has consistently underestimated the democracy movement and has insulted our intelligence. A majority of the people of Hong Kong have made clear that they reject China’s suppression of our freedoms. Carrie Lam had once claimed to have the support of a ‘silent majority’, but the message from the election results could not be clearer. Democracy must win out.

Dr Jingan Young is a journalist, academic and playwright.

Jingan’s play on journalism and censorship, Life and Death of a Journalist, runs at the VAULT Festival 2020 from 25 February to 1 March 2020. Get tickets here.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


harry briggs

26th November 2019 at 11:03 am

Surely the people of Hong Kong are in grave danger, China who have no qualms to “re educate” their muslim population may only put up with this for so long before troops move in and people are relocated to the mainland to take their turn in the “re education” camps, China can do as it wishes and no amount of political pressure from other countries will stop them.

James Knight

26th November 2019 at 9:58 am

People choosing democracy rather than the status quo and their short term economic interests, remoaners will have another divide by zero error.

Steve Roberts

26th November 2019 at 9:09 am

Any democrat can have nothing but admiration for the people of Hong Kong, sustaining a movement over such a long period of time with the threat of state violence hanging over their daily lives is no mean feat.
It is important too to understand that this sort of movement has as its core strength the one thing that any state cannot deal with peacefully unless it concedes control, that is the social force and support of the majority of people, ones for whom there is no equivocation, with clearly set goals. a clarity of purpose lessening links of weakness in the democratic chain.
However it is still not enough to guarantee democratic freedoms at this point, it would be foolhardy in the longer term to think objectives would be achieved by a revitalisation of the “legal” position of being a semi autonomous region. Yes that can be used as a basis for democracy but it needs to be understood, this is also a tool of control by the Chinese Authorities to be used as and when it suits and cast aside in the same manner.
The only guarantee of freedoms is the eternal vigilance of the people against those who are authoritarian and antidemocratic wherever they come from, legal successes may be a step but are not the guarantee we the people can rely upon.
It would be wrong to underestimate what has been achieved so far, as i said it is admirable, a lesson to us all of what can be achieved, how society can be mobilised in a serious and fundamental cause beyond but not excluding a cross on a piece of paper.
But the Chinese state is a powerful and authoritarian machine , as they all are, ones senses that if the HK democrats are to be successful they will need to widen their democratic demands into Chinese territory and have the arguments to win people over, but not just about the “special” needs of HK itself despite its financial importance.
International solidarity is needed and should be demanded, and that should begin here with our own enemy at home, the antidemocrats here, where we are likely to have another HOC stuffed full of people who will deny the will of the people taken in our own referendum, we voted to leave, unequivocally, we did not vote for some stitched up half measure that denies our will, unfortunately ALL the parties represented will to differing degrees be complicit in that stitch up.
Lessons to be learned, nationally and internationally, we need new peoples movements, from the bottom up., there are millions upon millions of us, even putting politics aside for a moment, surely we are capable of financing such a movement, that is clear and obvious, so we are back to the political clarity needed to unite us.

Jerry Owen

26th November 2019 at 8:01 am

I suspect we haven’t seen the last of the rioting . Beijing is hardly going to take this great result lying down is it !

Bear Mac Mathun

26th November 2019 at 5:49 am

Dr Young should check the arithmetic used: 86% is definitely less than 90%. The “democratic” candidates have 86% of the seats.

David Webb

26th November 2019 at 1:22 am

Er… no… The tactics of the democracy movement, including setting one man on fire, are justifiable by any means. The protests have gone on far too long and need to stop now.

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