Hong Kong is not what it was a few years ago. The Chinese Communist Party continues to dismantle the city’s democratic ethos, the latest being the tragedy of the Legislative Council polls. Beijing has also succeeded in erasing its bloody past from public memory.
A week ago, on December 19, residents of Hong Kong went to the polls to elect members of its highest legislative body, the Legislative Council (LegCo) for the first time since the imposition of the controversial Law on national security in June last year.
However, this was not a true “election” in any sense of the word, as the candidates were “screened” by the Chinese government in Beijing to pass the “patriotism test” before being declared eligible. according to a resolution passed by the Chinese parliament approved the National People’s Congress (NPC) in March this year.
The record turnout of 30.2% was the lowest since the UK returned the city to Chinese rule in 1997 under the promise of the “one country, two systems” policy. The turnout in the previous LegCo elections in 2016 was 58%, while the second lowest turnout was 43.6% in 2000.
The distribution of seats in LegCo
The current electoral overhaul, as envisioned in the AFN resolution of March 2021, included the extension of LegCo’s seats from 70 to 90. Of these seats, 40 are filled by the pro-Beijing Election Committee, made up of 1,500 members (instead of 1,200 previously). ), who until now elected only the city’s top civil servant, the Director General.
Only 20 seats are elected directly by city residents from geographic constituencies (compared to 35 previously). The remaining 30 seats are functional constituencies representing various sectors such as labor, commerce, banking, etc.
Beijing mandates pave the way for Hong Kong elections
Anyone wishing to be a member of the LegCo or the electoral committee or even a candidate for the post of general manager will be examined by a separate “selection committee”. This is being considered to ban anyone considered critical of the CCP-led government in Beijing. Thus, the character of LegCo itself is subject to change, thereby diluting the influence of directly elected members of the Board.
Only three of the 153 candidates in the running openly identified themselves as “pro-democracy”, symbolizing the birth of a new political culture in the city, regulated under the authoritarian grip of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As expected, when the results were released, nearly half of the seats went to candidates chosen by the pro-Beijing Election Commission.
The latest in a series of crackdowns
Most of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leaders and activists are now in prison or exile and journalists are being silenced. Calls to boycott the election or leave the ballots blank as a form of protest recording have met with arbitrary arrests and detentions. The National Security Law has been used to systematically target democratic aspirations and dissenting voices in the city.
Over the past decade, Beijing has undertaken a series of interventions to undermine Hong Kong’s special administrative region (SAR) status and its democratic character unlike the mainland, as provided for in the Basic Law which functions as a mini-constitution. from the city. , which has been in force since July 1997.
A joint Sino-British declaration signed in 1984 guaranteed Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs for 50 years from 1997, that is to say until 2047. But, Beijing is apparently unwilling to honor this pledge. or wait to legitimately seize Hong Kong, which was first lost to Britain in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanjing, following the First Opium War (1839-1842).
Almost a decade ago, in 2012, the Hong Kong school curriculum was changed in accordance with the CCP’s propaganda. Two years later, in 2014, the city experienced what was known as the “Umbrella Movement”, as pro-democracy protesters used umbrellas to protect themselves from tear gas used by police and from the sun. It was a response to Beijing’s unilateral attempt to tamper with the city’s free electoral system and universal suffrage, crippling parts of the city for more than two months.
But, the biggest protests ever seen in the city came in 2019 with the outbreak of massive protests and rallies of tens of thousands of Democratic activists against a bill allowing the arbitrary extradition of criminal suspects from the city to the United States. Mainland China. One day in mid-June of that year, the number of demonstrators even rose to two million, according to Amnesty International.
Around 88,000 Hong Kong citizens, who have long enjoyed the fruits of democracy and wish to escape the authoritarian rule in Beijing, applied for the New UK visa route (British National Overseas) in the first nine months since its launch at the end of January this year, according to a latest report from the British Foreign Office.
Beijing’s recent acts of erasure of public memory
By upsetting the LegCo, the Chinese Communist Party has almost accomplished the task of dismantling Hong Kong’s democratic institutions one by one. The most recent episode in a series of measures taken by the party was the removal of an eight-meter-high statue named “Pillar of Shame” from the campus of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), it a few days ago.
The monument symbolically commemorates the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) tanks unleashed in central Beijing, killing hundreds of unarmed civilians and innocent non-combatants , mostly students and young people, aiming to end weeks of pro-democracy protests.
The HKU incident was followed by the removal of artwork representing a similar message from two other Hong Kong universities. This is a testament to the CCP’s continuous efforts to erase its bloody past from public memory. The commemoration of the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre is already banned on the mainland by the CCP and has been erased from the Chinese history books.
It’s Hong Kong’s turn now, and it could be Taiwan sooner or later, as recent geopolitical developments in East Asia show. With a completely pro-Beijing ruling power, Hong Kong is unable to effectively resist the historic revisionist program of the CCP, and the people remain divided into pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps.
Post-Script: The region faces off against a savage dragon, breathing fire at one of the most desirable Asian tigers. And then it could presumably head east, as the directions show, to another one across the strait. Can the mighty Eagle be able to tame the Dragon and prevent another blaze? Well, I’m leaving it here for another piece.