The anti-CCP camp triumphed in the elections. But the real turning point, local experts explain, will come in September 2020, when voters will choose the new Legislative Council.
by Marco Respinti
Hong Kong just made history. The spectacular victory of the pro-democracy coalition on Sunday, November 24, stroke a first fatal blow to the pro-CCP establishment of Honk Kong Special Administrative Region. The administration is led by 62-years old Ms. Carrie Lam (Lam-Cheng Yuet-ngor), the Chief Executive elected in 2017 with the favor of Beijing. Winning 90% of the 452 seats in the 18 district councils of the Region, the opposition has completely overturned the result of the 2015 elections. Well-known leaders of the democratic protest, including Mr. Roy Kwong Chun-yu, are among those elected (high profile activist Mr. Joshua Wong Chi-fung was disqualified from running and his substitute won). Vocal supporters of the pro-CCP government, including Mr. Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, experienced humiliating defeats. “Voters cheered outside Ho’s office over his defeat last night,” said Ms. Pik Shan “Clarice” Pang, a Hong Kong-born journalist and one of the experts whom Bitter Winter interviewed.
Hong Kong voters clearly sided with the protesters, mainly youngsters and students, who, since June 9, are revolting against the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill introduced by the local government. Under this bill, the Hong Kong government would have extradited fugitives wanted in countries with which the Region doesn’t currently have extradition agreements. Needless to say, one of these countries is China. Bitter Winter readers would easily understand what that law could mean not for real criminals, but for opponents the CCP wants back in Mainland China, including members of persecuted religious and ethnic minorities.
The beginning of the end? Or a short-lived victory?
After weeks of repressions and (occasionally lethal) violence, Hong Kong is now at a point of no return. The bill on extradition was formally withdrawn on October 23. But it has in fact ignited a larger protest, aimed at China’s widespread intrusion in the daily life of Hong Kong.
Whatever happens now, Hong Kong cannot go back. Neither can the CCP in Beijing back off. The CCP cannot continue its anti-Hong-Kong campaign as if nothing happened. The pro-CCP Hong Kong police cannot simply continue to beat, arrest, and kill people endlessly. On the other hand, the CCP cannot just give up either. While Ms. Lam said that Hong Kong’s Executive should now “seriously reflect” on the triumph of the democratic forces, and Beijing simply commented that the Hong Kong is and remains part of China, what will happen in the next few days will be decisive. Will the Hong Kong events of 2019 mark the beginning of the end of the Chinese Communist regime, or will the CCP have the stamina to blatantly crush an entire people in front of the whole world?
“The landslide victory of pan-democrats (as the opposition calls itself) is a clear indication of the desire of Hong Kong’s citizens to vote out an unfair political system, which undermines the city’s freedoms,” Hong Kong hedge fund manager and main organizer of the “2047 HK Monitor” group Mr. Edward C.K. Chin told Bitter Winter, speaking from the frontline of this battle for human rights and democracy, sending along pictures he took before election day. “But this victory could be short-lived, as the CCP’s overall policy about Hong Kong is aimed at eliminating the city’s core values, which is deeply disturbing.”
Talking to Bitter Winter, Mr. John Patterson, director of “Hong Kong Watch”, made similar remarks. “The District Council elections were essentially a referendum on the popularity of the Hong Kong government,” he said. “The electoral earthquake shows the depth of anger at the incompetent handling of the protests. The time has come for universal suffrage, what in 2014 the so-called ‘Umbrella Movement’ had already asked: the answer at that time was more police repression. An independent inquiry into police brutality is also needed”.
Never forget those who fell
“I can’t describe how happy I’m for the great victory of the pan-democratic camp. It captured 388 of 452 seats. The turnout was a record-breaking 71.2%, which is to say that more than 2.9 million people voted (in 2015 they were 1,4 million, i.e. 47%).” This is the opinion of Ms. Pik Shan “Clarice” Pang. She is an independent journalist born and raised in Hong Kong, specialized in investigative and feature stories about China, including on city crime, worker’s rights, and environmental issues. Having closely observed the street protest for democracy since its beginning, she comments: “We in Hong Kong have been sacrificing too much sweat, blood and tears since June. Now, the electoral result clearly shows that people demand a fundamental change for our society—a society that should fully embrace democracy, respect the rule of law and value human rights. I’m deeply touched by this amazing outcome: our voices have finally been heard.”
So, what’s next for Hong Kong? “I hope,” she answered, “that the elected politicians could address the police brutality, try to pressure the government to face the problem, and set up an independent investigation on the police’s excessive use of force. Many fresh faces have been elected. They are young and might lack experience to serve the community. But we don’t mind: we hope they can be humble enough and recruit other experienced politicians, who lost the elections but may want to cooperate with them as assistants, offering suggestions on workable tactics to address local community issues.”
Clarice’s mind turned immediately to those who fell. “We shall dedicate this positive outcome to those who sacrificed their lives defending Hong Kong values. Many of them were young: they died too soon and couldn’t see this victory. We shall never forget them and carry on the battle on their behalf.”
Back to politics, the young journalist and activist noted that, “the results show that voters living in areas most affected by the protests chose pro-protest candidates. Such result debunks Beijing’s narrative portraying the demonstrators as uniformly violent. In fact, there are more cases of violence by the police than by the protesters. Police brutality is one of the key points that made people feel the urge to vote against pro-CCP politicians, who coordinated with police and hired thugs to attack peaceful Hong Kong citizens.”
The challenge continues
“Beijing’s propaganda, Ms. Pang added, ended up in turning into disinformation, which harmed the CCP’s own assessment of what is happening on the ground and the Party’s allies in Hong Kong.” One example? “The New People’s Party (NPP) is a pro-CCP party in Kong Kong. It fielded candidates to contest about 20 seats and was totally defected. The NPP supported the police tactic over the past few months and ended up not winning a single seat. Its chairwoman and founder in January 2011, Ms. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, is perceived by the public as a hate politician. After this huge loss, she declared her party ‘finished.’ What I mean is that the day after is deeply embarrassing for Beijing. What I fear, however, is that the CCP regime will react with a more heavy-handed control rather than softening its approach.”
The process does not end in 2019, Ms. Pang added. “A year from now, in September 2020,” she explained, “Honk Kong will hold elections for the Legislative Council (LegCo), the unicameral legislature of the Region. It counts 70 members, half elected from geographical constituencies and half from functional constituencies (professionals or designated legal personalities). At the moment, 26 of those seats are controlled by the pan-democratic camp and 42 by the pro-establishment parties. Thus, the latter dominates the law-making process. Next year, citizens will have to show up again a high turnout voting rate, to guarantee more balance inside the LegCo. But, since that election will influence directly the stability of the current pro-Beijing government, will the government try to disqualify all the pan-democratic candidates? Will it arrest them for political reasons? Or change the rules, just on the eve of the vote? It will be an interesting year to follow…”
Obviously, there are no limits to CCP‘s malicious maneuvers. Its poor record on human rights speaks by itself. The CCP may not want a second Tiananmen, just on its 30th anniversary. But, when the day after the electoral defeat, he stated, in a routine press briefing, that “China’s central government resolutely supports chief executive Carrie Lam’s leadership of the Special Administrative Region government”, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Mr. Geng Shuang, unquestionably meant nothing good for the people of Hong Kong.