November 30th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Can we put the 'care' back into aged care?

EDITORIAL Bushfires: One step forwards, one step backwards

ENVIRONMENTALISM Activists and courts give sharks the last laugh

CANBERRA OBSERVED ALP's self-examination will entice no one back

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to the High Court

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Deaths after Fukushima due to excessive caution

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Geopolitics, oligarchs and the Moldova miracle

ENVIRONMENT Into the unknown: Should we prepare for climate change or climate variability?

LAW AND SOCIETY Crime and punishment: Are we de-civilising?

WATER POLICY Drought relief still leaves too much water going to waste

ASIAN AFFAIRS Destination Oz: Flood of Hong Kong emigres may restart

HUMOUR MacStuttles, me ol' China

MUSIC Subliminal workhorse: An art takes the backseat

CINEMA Dr Sleep: Kubrick 'shined' from his rest

BOOK REVIEW Science and religion, with mutual respect

BOOK REVIEW A borrowed term for a socialist recipe



FOREIGN AFFAIRS Hong Kong voters reject Beijing and its proxies

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Hong Kong voters reject Beijing and its proxies

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, November 30, 2019

In a decisive expression of the popular will, the people of Hong Kong have voted overwhelmingly to support pro-democracy candidates in local government elections, defeating pro-Beijing candidates decisively.

Young voters in Hong Kong celebrate the victories of pro-democracy
candidates in the November 24 local goverment elections.

The local government elections are for the lower tier of government in Hong Kong, below the Legislative Council where laws are enacted. Traditionally, these positions have been dominated by pro-Beijing supporters, backed by big business in Hong Kong.

The turnout of votes has traditionally been relatively low. In the 2015 election, previously the largest in Hong Kong, 47 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. In the elections held on November 24 this year, over 71 per cent of enrolled voters cast a ballot.

There has also been a large increase in the number of people enrolled to vote, many of them young people voting for the first time.

This year, there were 4.13 million registered voters, while in 2015 there were only 3.12 million registered voters in all the contested seats.

Shortly before the elections, a police operation encircled the Polytechnic University, and attacked students who had taken refuge there. Hundreds of student activists were arrested.

Because many people in Hong Kong work on Sunday, polling booths were open from 7.30am until 10.30pm, to give all voters a chance to cast their ballots.

At many polling booths, squads of armed police were in attendance, but there were virtually no incidents and there was no violence, in contrast to the increasingly violent confrontations between police and protesters over the previous six months.


Masked police

Interestingly, photos showed police outside polling booths wearing masks, although the wearing of masks has been made illegal for civilians.

At stake in the elections were 452 positions as district councillors, and the size of the landslide became apparent early in counting.

The day after the election, the English-language South China Morning Post said that pro-democracy candidates had won 344 seats, compared to just 58 for pro-Beijing candidates and 41 independents.

Seventeen of the 18 district councils where voting was complete will have a pro-democracy majority.

The results of the polls will have knock-on effects on the election of the Chief Executive, as about 10 per cent of the electoral college come from the district councils.

Many Western journalists in Hong Kong had accepted Beijing’s line that the violence associated with pro-democracy protests, which have caused paralysis to parts of the city and damaged business confidence, would undermine the pro-democracy vote.

However, the people of Hong Kong have clearly shown that they put responsibility for the violence directly at the feet of the police, of the Beijing-appointed Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, and of Beijing itself, which has called for harsher measures to deal with the protesters.

An inevitable casualty of the violence, followed by the popular vote, will be Carrie Lam, whose position now is untenable.

The South China Morning Post said: “The tsunami of disaffection among voters was clear across the board, as pan-democrats rode the wave to win big in poor and rich neighbourhoods, in both protest-prone and non protest-afflicted districts, and in downtown areas as well as the suburbs.”

The size of the swing against Beijing’s candidates was clear early in the count. The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), which fielded 179 candidates and controlled local government in Hong Kong, won only about 25 seats.

Recriminations commenced almost immediately.

Former district councillor Alice Mak, of the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, speaking of her defeat, says the Carrie Lam administration was partly to blame.

“The Government’s poor governance has given rise to many public grievances. In the election campaign, pro-government candidates have been unfairly treated. This is a very important reason,” she said.

In the immediate aftermath of its election rout, Beijing was uncharacteristically silent.

After denouncing the protests and showing the chaos in Hong Kong in the run-up to the election, the government-controlled media was completely silent on the election outcome.

One result of the election is that the possibility of China moving to occupy Hong Kong has been substantially reduced, at least in the short term.

Beijing now knows that the people of Hong Kong, both those born on the mainland and others born in Hong Kong, many of whom are young, will fight to prevent the city’s autonomy being further undermined.

Following the election, pro-democracy activists have repeated their five demands, including an independent inquiry into police violence during the past six months of protests, direct elections for all positions on the Legislative Council (Legco), and direct election of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

So far, the Chinese-appointed Government of Hong Kong has been completely unresponsive to the people’s demands.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm