Yesterday, Hong Kong went to the polls and definitively backed democracy over Beijing. In a blow to the establishment, the 2019 election saw a monumental shift from that of 2015. There was not only a gargantuan shift in voting, but there was also a record turnout.
The recent events in Hong Kong have featured on news screens across the world, and the anti-Beijing sentiment is rife. In fact, the flying of the former colonial flag became familiar with protesters, as did their renditions of God Save The Queen. What has caused this grand change in Hongkonger politics is the fear that China is looking at manipulating the special relationship that Hong Kong has. When this relationship expires in 2047, Hong Kong could become any other Chinese city. However, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam’s, announcement that powers on fugitives should be transferred to mainland China provoked the protesters, under the anti-extradition bill. And as a consequence, her support and the support of her party plummeted.
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, declared that this election was ‘an important opportunity for the people of Hong Kong to make their voices heard.’ He is undoubtedly right as, after months of violence and turbulence, the people of Hong Kong were able to make their voices heard through the power of the polling station. However, the overturn of the 2015 election was also in part due to the active campaigning group among students. In the campaign to boost voter registration, almost 400,000 extra voters registered, many of whom were first-time voters, and voter turnout soared to over 70%, with an increase of around 25 percentage points, which is unprecedented in the electoral history of Hong Kong.
But what of the results? In 2015, all 18 districts opted for the pro-Beijing parties, yet in 2019 all but one was lost to the pro-democratic alliances. The pro-democracy landslide saw them pick up almost three times as many seats as they won in 2015, a rise from 124 to 389. But with a national swing of around 15%, many pro-government, prominent forces, including Horace Cheung, Alice Mak and Holden Chow lost their seats, whereas, Starry Lee narrowly retained her position.
Overall, the percentage won by the pro-democratic group was 57%, up 17 points from 2015 while the pro-Beijing politicians fell by 13% to 42 points. Possibly, more interesting than the percentage change is the seat change among local authorities in Hong Kong. The 298 pro-Beijing officials in 2015, fell to just 59 yesterday, and the 126 pro-democrats rose substantially to 388. However, unlike local elections in the United Kingdom, this one was of great significance. Leung Kwok-hung, who pushed Starry Lee close, argued that this election was a ‘de facto referendum’.
Many successful candidates have celebrated such a monumental shift as a mandate for revolution. The Southern District Council and vice-chair of DP, Lo Kin-hei, claimed that this was a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the current system. Even Carrie Lam has accepted the result of the election and indicated that the vote would be respected. The prominent student activist, Joshua Wong, took to Twitter and said that ‘This is historic. Early returns suggest a landslide victory for the opposition camp. Hong Kongers have spoken out, loud and clear. The international community must acknowledge that, almost six months in, public opinion has NOT turned against the movement.’
Yet, just tonight, Beijing claimed that Hong Kong would always be under Chinese control, and according to the BBC, a foreign spokesperson said that Hong Kong is an internal issue and others should mind their own business. This may prompt even greater political discontent in Hong Kong and even greater fear of the special status that preserves some sovereignty on the ex-British territory.
By J Walters