Will of ordinary Hong Kong citizens expressed at ballot box

Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp is celebrating a landslide victory in Sunday's local elections. The vote was framed as a referendum on public support for the protests that have roiled the city for months, and which have grown increasingly violent in recent weeks.

Pro-democracy candidates won more than 80 percent of the 452 posts up for grabs across Hong Kong's 18 district councils. Voter turnout was also exceptionally high, at more than 70 percent. The leading pro-Beijing party lost 80 percent of the seats it had before the vote.

Lam acknowledges sentiment


Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave a news conference on Tuesday. "We were aware of the large number of voters coming out to cast a vote," she said. "Perhaps not only to select a preferred candidate to sit on the district council, but also to express a view on many issues in society."

Many candidates stood on demands for electoral reform and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.

But Lam says there's more than one way to interpret the results. And she says she doesn't plan to give in to any further demands from the protesters.

Beijing's reaction

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the international community not to interfere. "Whatever happens in Hong Kong, the territory is a special administrative region that is part of China," he said. "We will not tolerate any attempt to bring confusion or jeopardize the territory's stability and prosperity."

Wang Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister, spoke to reporters in Tokyo on Monday.

Things will likely be about damage limitation for Beijing. Authorities will not want mainlanders to know the scale of the rejection of the territory's government. China will likely keep the onus on the Hong Kong leadership as a way of avoiding criticism from abroad.

What's next?

Since June demonstrators have been reiterating five demands, including electoral reform and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.
On Monday, several of the successful candidates called for police to allow dozens of protesters holed up in Hong Kong Polytechnic University to leave without fear of arrest.

Pro-democracy activists who gathered near the university confronted the police on Monday.

Many people fear that if the Chief Executive does nothing in response to the vote, the demonstrations will likely escalate once again, perhaps becoming even more violent. But, it’s no easy option for Lam to compromise, given that Chinese President Xi Jinping has said a firmer hand is needed.

Looking ahead to fall 2020, Hong Kong faces a Legislative Election. Another victory for the pro-democracy camp in that major test will only add power to their cause.
In addition, the poll gives the pro-democracy camp slightly more influence in the choice of the next Chief Executive, scheduled for 2022.