Published: November 2019 (3 Min Read)

After a few days for reflection I should like to comment on the extraordinary results of last weekend’s elections for the District Councils in Hong Kong.

The turn-out at 71% was the highest since such elections started in 1999. More than half of the 452 seats changed from being pro-Beijing to pro-democracy or independent. The effect was seen in both urban and rural areas. As a result, the pro-democracy movement has taken control of 17 of the 18 districts. Previously they held one third of them.

It is important to recognise that this is not an election for the Legislative Council (Legco). Those elections take place every four years and will take place in September next year.

Legco now has 70 members, with 35 elected by universal suffrage in 5 geographical constituencies, 30 chosen through limited suffrage in 28 functional constituencies, and 5 District Council members elected by voters ineligible to vote in the functional constituencies, the so-called “super seats”.

Beijing seems to have reacted passively to the result, quite possibly because this was not a Legco election. Their calls for respect for law and order, and their restraint thus far, have been commendable, but they clearly failed to capitalise upon the increasingly negative sentiment in Hong Kong about the violence of the protests.

The disapproval of the violence in no way altered the underlying desire of Hong Kongers to have their wishes respected. Beijing will need to come to terms with this.

In my opinion the UK and the US should stay out of this because their intervention risks causing a greater loss of face, and thus even greater difficulty for Beijing to find an accommodation. The issues are public enough. Foreign interference is already being blamed.

My son, a student in Beijing, says that ordinary Chinese people don’t begin to understand the complaints of the demonstrators. From their point of view, since the opening up of the economy the State has delivered on its promises to make life better for all in China. And life for the majority of them continues to improve, whatever commentators say about a slowing economy.

So, what should they do?

Even before the demonstrations began friends in Hong Kong were very critical of Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive. It is an open secret that she wanted to resign, but Beijing said she should stay. Beijing retains the option of sacking her, and this was one of the demonstrators’ demands.

One demand, the withdrawal of the “extradition bill”, has happened, so surely the easiest option is to accede to the remaining three of the five of the demonstrators’ requests in some way.

A review of police brutality and the release of demonstrators from prison would be easy to do.

Increased democratic freedoms would be more challenging.