Hong Kong local elections show that protesters have massive public support
On Sunday Hongkongers voted for district council seats. This is a lower level elected office, and the entirety of it doesn’t translate into much direct effect on the committee that chooses the Hong Kong chief executive, which elected Carrie Lam to office in March 2017. But what this election result does provide is a very telling barometer of public mood, especially as it is an emphatic result rather than a tepid one.
Pro-democracy candidates won thumpingly, more than tripling their tally from 124 to 389, by far their highest tally ever. On the opposite side, pro-Beijing candidates dropped dramatically from 300 to 58. This was on top of the number of registered voters scoring a new record, and then the voter turnout snowballing to 71% from 47% four years ago. In India we call this an anti-incumbency turnout.
In March large protests began against a proposed law which would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China. After continued protests, including a two million strong march from Victoria Park to the Legislative Council on June 16, it was announced in September that the controversial bill would be withdrawn. And yet the protests continued, chanting, “Five demands, not one less.” Withdrawal of the extradition bill was just one of five. Other demands include Lam stepping down, exoneration of those who have been arrested during the protests, an independent inquiry into police brutality, and greater democratic freedoms.
With little sign that any of these four demands would get a sympathetic hearing from Beijing, even as the police-protesters’ standoff over them grew increasingly violent, and Hong Kong slipped into recession with tourism and other businesses taking significant hits, the moot question has been whether the protesters have become unpopular. Are they the fringe now? Not at all, the district council elections suggest. Some of the winning candidates have even been arrested and charged while protesting. Yet, the public favors them. This is a fight they may not win, but it is a fight of the people.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.