Landslide Victory For Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Candidates Seen As First Step Towards Democracy

Hong Kong’s district council election results are a major win for pro-democracy advocates as many important pro-government figures lost their seats. The results, which came in last Monday morning, resulted in a landslide victory for democratic candidates. 2.94 million registered voters participated in this year’s council election—a staggering voter turnout of approximately 71%. Out of the 452 total district council seats, 390 were won by pro-democracy parties, which is more than three times the number of seats secured by the party during the last election four years ago. District councils look after local issues, such as bus routes and recreation facilities, but they are seen as the only elections that provide some form of legitimate democratic rule.

The landslide victory comes after half-year, of demonstrations against the Chinese government. Ma Ngok, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Al Jazeera: “The government had counted on a reversal of public opinion that hadn’t come. So, the momentum of the protest movement will no doubt continue.”

It is starting to seem as if the grassroots movements are steadily shaping the future of Hong Kong’s administration. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a statement following the election results, saying, “Quite a few are of the view that the results reflect people’s dissatisfaction with the current situation and the deep-seated problems in society.” She followed with, “The government will listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect,” a sentiment seconded by Starry Lee, the leader of the biggest pro-Beijing party.

Lee says, “We hope the government can deeply reflect upon and examine its own shortcomings in handling the bill and restoring order to society.”

Wu Chi-wai, Democratic Party chairman, heralded the election as a step to full democracy. “This district election shows that the central government needs to face the demands of a democratic system,” he said.

China’s response is that the central government “resolutely supports Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s leadership,” according to Geng Shuang, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman.

Others, however, are wearier of the country’s guarded response.

Simon Shen, an adjunct associate professor at Hong Kong University believes that the central government will find ways to introduce measures addressing Hong Kong’s citizens’ demands for universal suffrage and national security issues.

The months of protest provided the necessary push to encourage young voters to register and participate in their elections. Registered voters between 18 and 35 spiked by over 12 per cent in Hong Kong, and now 4.1 million people are on the electoral rolls. This dramatic change in Hong Kong’s political landscape demonstrates to the corrupt leaders currently in charge that change needs to occur—and soon. The victories by pro-democracy candidates have encouraged elected officials to reflect on their flawed administration and address their constituents’ concerns and dissatisfaction with an illiberal and brutal government. Hopefully, this will be a positive step forward in peacefully resolving this conflict without demonstrators being needlessly injured or detained.

The protests that led to this major win for pro-democracy candidates came from the six-months battle against protestors and pro-government officials, mainland China, and the police. An extradition bill was proposed in February of this year that would allow extraditions beyond the states with which Hong Kong has treaties, including mainland China. Then, Hong Kong leader Carrier Lam amended the extradition laws, which would allow criminal suspects to be sent to the mainland for trial. Thousands took to the streets to protests the original bill and the proposed amendments.

The increasing conflicts in the streets brought upon issues in the legislature between pro-democracy lawmakers and pro-government ones. As the bill is battled out, civilians continue to protest, with their numbers reaching over half a million. Police then began to fire rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds of demonstrators. Protestors and police continued to clash for months, and Lam announced the withdrawal of the extradition bill, but it is seen as too late. Violence and conflict amongst police and civilians and lawmakers continue.

The landslide victory and this first step towards democracy comes after a series of violent attacks and demonstrations. While there is no guarantee as to how this win will shape the future of Hong Kong’s democracy, we can hope that it brings about some much-needed reflection within mainland China and Hong Kong’s officials. Hopefully these forms of peaceful, grassroots movements continue and that innocent civilians are spared from continued police brutality.