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25.11.2019 Europe

Defeat for pro-Beijing parties in Hong Kong elections

By Jan van der Made - RFI
REUTERS/Thomas Peter
NOV 25, 2019 EUROPE

Hong Kong's local elections ended in a landslide victory for the Pan-Democrats, a cluster of political parties and individuals critical of Beijing. In a record 71,2 percent turnout, the highest ever, pro-democracy groups won 347 out of 452 seats, and the pro-establishment, pro Beijing groups only 60.

"The Hong Kong Government respects the election results,” said Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam in a statement, adding that the authorities "will listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect." But she failed to give any specifics.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing "resolutely supports" the leader and backs the police and judiciary in Hong Kong in "punishing relevant violent and illegal behaviours".

Opponents quickly called on Lam to accede to a five-point list of demands, including direct elections for the city's legislature and leadership, and a probe into alleged police brutality against demonstrators.

“It is a landslide victory,” says legislator Claudia Mo, leader of pro-democracy group HK First.

“We have practically uprooted the pro-Beijing camp influence at grassroots level throughout Hong Kong. And Beijing and its puppet government in Hong Kong has completely underestimated Hong Kong people's determination and willpower in our fight for true democracy. And Beijing should stop this absolute control-kind-of approach over Hong Kong.”

Millions took to the streets earlier this year after Lam's government introduced a bill to allow extraditions to mainland China.

The legislation was eventually withdrawn, but the resulting public anger unleashed broader demands and led to violent clashes between police and protesters.

District councils handle community-level issues like garbage collection. But backlit by protests, Sunday's contest took a new political significance.

“It is seen as a de-facto referendum on Carrie Lam's failure in governance,” pro-democracy activist Eric Lai told RFI.

“What comes first is to ask the government to acknowledge the result and to make concessions. She already made this rhetoric since June. She said she will respect people's opinion, but she didn't make any concrete action to show her humility.”

While Hong Kong's elections enjoyed global coverage, the Chinese press was all but silent. The Monday edition of the People's Daily, the CCP's mouthpiece does not mention Hong Kong on its front page. Page three has an article attacking the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019 that was passed by the US Congress on Friday, saying it is an “interference in China's internal affairs.”

The website of the English-language channel of China Central Television does not mention Hong Kong at all. The most recent video on the site is a reference to what they call a “patriotic flash mob” of Hong Kong residents demonstrating against the violence.

The China Daily, the English language paper does have a report on its China page acknowledging the high turnout for the vote, but failing to give the results showing the Pan-Democrat victory.

"It is hard to imagine how many people's opinions the election result represents," ran a commentary in the China Daily. "People live under such a heavy shadow of the rioters' terror that they dare not speak out against them."