Monday, January 17

The prochinos take control of the Hong Kong Assembly from the hand of Beijing


Beijing

Updated:

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Nothing could be less surprising than the result in the municipal elections held this Sunday in Hong Kong, after the local Executive delayed the elections for more than a year and manipulated the process to make it impossible, not just a victory, but the concurrence of the pro-democracy front.

Participation, therefore, had become the most relevant metric. And in that sense, Hong Kongers have spoken loud and clear with their silence: only 30.2% of the 4.5 million citizens summoned they cast their vote at the polls, the lowest rate in the history of the territory.

This is the case, for example, of a young woman who for safety reasons prefers not to reveal her identity. After joining the anti-government protests in the summer of 2019, neither she nor her family members have come to vote this weekend, resigned to the irremediable authoritarian turn in their land.

“None of us went, for what …”, affirms in declarations to this newspaper.

In the previous legislative elections, held in 2016, turnout reached 58.2%. The contrast is even greater when comparing the data recorded on this occasion with the last elections, the municipal elections of 2019, in which 71.2% of voters attended the schools, an unprecedented figure.

On that occasion the pro-democracy forces garnered a historic majority, prevailing in the majority of councils thanks to the impulse of the massive protests. These went from bringing together 124 seats to 388 of the 477 at stake (a rise from 27% to 82%), while the pro-Chinese side fell from 331 to 89 (from 73% to 18%).

From that moment on, the opposition’s plan consisted of presenting a unitary list to the legislative elections – these ones – originally scheduled for November 2020 and thus maximizing its possibilities of controlling the Legislative Council, a chamber equivalent to the territorial Parliament. If successful, this would allow them to block government action by rejecting, among other projects, the annual budgets.

It was then that the local Executive intervened. First, postponing the elections citing the risk to public health posed by the pandemic. Later, by approving a new electoral law that came into force in May of this year. This increased the number of seats in the chamber, which went from 70 to 90, but reduced the number elected by direct suffrage: from 35, more than half, to 20, not even a quarter, making it mathematically impossible for pro-democracy forces achieve a parliamentary majority. The remaining 70 seats would be designated by the Electoral Committee and associations close to the interests of the Chinese Communist Party.

This reform also established that only “true patriots” could hold positions of political responsibility. As a result, the majority of pro-democracy representatives have not been able to present their candidacy. Many of them are in jail, awaiting trial, exiled or separated from the institutions; persecuted by the National Security Law imposed from Beijing.

This legal framework, promulgated in May 2020, punishes with up to life imprisonment “separatism, terrorism, subversion of the powers of the State and the collusion with foreign forces ”, and has been used to tie up the opposition, the media and civil society. The Asian giant thus violates the Basic Law and the international agreements for the return of sovereignty of 1997, according to which it promised to respect the rights and freedoms prevailing in the former British colony for at least half a century.

China, for its part, praised the result of the polls. The Information Office of the State Council has issued a new report, entitled “Hong Kong’s Democratic Progress under the One Country, Two Systems Model.” This text, the first relating to the government of the territory since 2014, defends that “the central government will continue to develop and improve democracy in Hong Kong according to its realities.” “The improved electoral system … ensures the strong long-term development of democracy in Hong Kong.” A particular democracy in which, in light of Sunday’s elections, citizens have only one option.

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