Despite the record-high turnout, Sunday’s election has been unable to break the status quo in our legislature.
The opposition camp still holds only a little more than a third of the total seats in the house and will find it difficult to get its way when it comes to political reform proposals in the next four years.
That said, the pro-democracy groups have won enough seats to retain their veto power to block unpopular legislative initiatives from the pro-Beijing camp.
As seven young new faces belonging to localist and pro-independence groups have made it to the Legco, with some of them winning by significant margins, we can expect tensions, confrontations, and clashes in the legislature to escalate over the next four years.
As the localist candidates have secured as many as 390,000 votes by pledging to push for self-determination on Hong Kong’s future, they will consider it as a mandate from their voters to strive for sweeping changes in the city through radical tactics in the legislature.
The issue of the so-called “2047 deadline” and the self-determination on Hong Kong’s status will definitely become topics that no political party can afford to ignore in the days ahead.
So how is the administration going to respond to that?
If Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying remains confrontational and belligerent when dealing with a much more radical legislature after October, the political standoff both inside and outside Legco will certainly intensify.
Now, we come to another question: what if the next chief executive is going to be someone else? Will the political climate in the city ease off substantially if Leung doesn’t get a second term?
Well it’s a big if, as the CE election is still six months away. Though there have been signs that the race has already begun, we can’t be certain about the candidates as of now.
Among the potential contenders, the outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang Yuk-sing, who was referred to recently by Time magazine as “Hong Kong’s hope”, and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, whose approval ratings are the highest among all top government officials, have indicated that they could join the race.
While it remains to be seen if they will indeed do so, what is becoming clear now is that Beijing is unlikely to allow Leung a second term without a contest.
John Tsang’s odds were boosted as there is talk that during a dinner banquet on Sunday at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, he once again had an opportunity to shake hands with President Xi Jinping.
We are unable to confirm whether that handshake did take place, and if it did, whether it represented Beijing’s blessing. However, the chatter has certainly fuelled public imagination and speculation.
As the CE election approaches, Hong Kong people should get ready for wave after wave of high political drama.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 6.
Translation by Alan Lee
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