In what has been described as a ‘landslide’ victory, pro-democracy candidates in Hong Kong scored major victories in elections for the city’s district councils.
Hong Kong is divided into 18 district councils, comprising a total of 452 seats. For the first time ever, every seat was contested. Around 2.9 million Hong Kongers cast their votes, out of a total voting population of some 4.1 million. This was a larger turnout (in both percentage terms and absolute numbers) than ever before.
Although the councils have very restricted and strictly local powers, the election was seen as an important symbolic referendum on the politics of the city, in the wake of fierce demonstrations in past months by residents demanding greater democracy and freedom. The immediate spark was a proposed extradition law, which may have made it possible for Hong Kongers with views unpalatable to the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to be delivered there for trial.
The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), which is loyal to the government of the PRC had met the demonstrations with considerable repression, claiming that the protestors were unrepresentative of Hong Kong’s people.
The election results saw 17 of the 18 councils fall under the control of the pro-democracy alliance. Only one, the Islands District Council, remained under the control of the Pro-PRC alliance, largely as a result of the large proportion of ex officio members. In the 2015 election, all 18 councils had been won by the Pro-PRC faction.
Chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR responded to the results by offering a somewhat ambiguous promise to partner with them and to acknowledge the views of the voters: ‘I hereby pledge that the Hong Kong SAR government will continue to fully support the work of the district councils, provide more resources and listen more attentively to the view and opinions expressed by the district council members on behalf of the local population.’
It remains unclear what, if any, impact the result will have on the position of the government of the PRC.
[Picture: Base64, retouched by CarolSpears, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4222127]