24 October 2016
More than 2.2 million people voted in the Legislative Council election on Sunday. Photo: HKEJ
More than 2.2 million people voted in the Legislative Council election on Sunday. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong people have spoken: Is Beijing listening?

The Legislative Council election has ended with a record turnout of voters.

More than 2.2 million people queued outside polling stations for at least half an hour on Sunday to register their political stand on what Hong Kong should be in the next four years.

And thanks to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the election saw the rise of a third force in Hong Kong politics: the pro-independence camp.

The election results show that pro-independence and localist candidates garnered more than 400,000 votes and won six seats in the geographical constituencies.

The total number of votes for pro-independence candidates accounted for around 19 percent of the votes in the geographical constituencies.

Now we will see pro-independence legislators joining pro-establishment and pan-democratic lawmakers in the Legco sessions.

Prior to the election, surveys showed that the opposition camp (i.e., the traditional democrats and independence advocates) could lose the critical minority or one-third of the seats in Legco, but the actual results were much better than expected.

The opposition boosted their Legco presence to 30 seats, up from 27, which will enable them to block any controversial bill submitted by the government and lawmakers.

Without a doubt, the Legco election is a vote of no confidence against CY Leung as the city’s leader.

For the past four years, Leung has been implementing a “Beijing first” policy, allowing the central government to dictate and guide the territory’s policies.

He even urged the people to “vote them out” of Legco to allow the smooth implementation of government programs and policies.

By “them”, of course, he was referring to the pan-democrats who have been filibustering in Legco sessions to block bills that would allow the government to pour billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into white elephants and hasten the territory’s integration with the mainland.

However, Sunday’s vote clearly shows that it is Leung that they want to vote out of office, if only they are given the chance.

Before the election, political pundits had predicted that the higher the voters’ turnout, the better it would be for the opposition camp.

And right they were. The surge in the number of votes was a blessing for pro-democracy and independence advocates including Demosistō’s Nathan Law, Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-Ching and Leung Chung-hang, Land Justice’s Chu Hoi-dick, Democracy Groundwork’s Lau Siu-lai and legislator Edward Yiu in functional constituency.

The six young legislators they have voted into Legco is the people’s response to CY Leung’s condemnation of the self-determination and independence movement in Hong Kong.

Their victory is a thumbs-up for the young activists who joined and led the 79-day Occupy campaign in 2014 and the Mong Kok protests in February this year.

It’s now clear that Hong Kong people want a new approach to dealing with China, four years after Leung launched his schemes to fully integrate Hong Kong with the mainland.

Hong Kong people cherish the kind of Hong Kong where basic freedoms are enjoyed and their rights are respected and protected, and where the rule of law – not dictates from the north –  is supreme.

And so they still remember these young and brave activists who fought for genuine universal suffrage for the election of the city’s next leader in 2017.

The Occupy campaign may have failed in achieving this objective, but the people, through their vote on Sunday, reminds everyone that the struggle has not ended. 

The election results show that the spirit of the Occupy campaign still glows in the hearts of the people, yearning for fulfillment.

In fact, the “failure” of the Occupy Movement paved the way for the emergence of a new breed of activists, who now believe that only self-determination, or independence, could resolve all the issues pertaining of Hong Kong’s relations with Beijing.

The Mong Kok clashes in February are another tipping point.

It was this event that gave rise to localism, and it was here where Edward Leung’s Hong Kong Indigenous started gaining territory-wide awareness.

The young activist won more than 60,000 votes in the Legco by-election at the end of February.

However, the CY Leung administration blocked his participation in the Legco election, citing his pro-independence advocacy, which it said was against the Basic Law.

It may be a setback for Edward Leung, but it gave a chance for Youngspiration’s Baggio Leung to pursue the struggle. He garnered 40,000 votes in the Legco election on Sunday.

We can only hope that the election results will make the CY Leung administration realize the folly of its hardline approach to governance. 

The election results show the people’s desire to maintain Hong Kong’s uniqueness under Beijing’s rule, rather than to seek a complete split from China.

CY Leung should acknowledge his failure to create a harmonious society, and he should take full responsibility for the election results.

Before the election, Leung indicated that he would wait for the results of the Sept. 4 election before deciding whether to seek a second term.

The results have come in. The people have spoken, and Beijing should listen. They don’t want Leung for four more years. 

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EJ Insight writer

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