Date
10 December 2016
Leung Chun-ying issues a statement congratulating Donald Trump on his victory. Photos: Xinhua, GovHK
Leung Chun-ying issues a statement congratulating Donald Trump on his victory. Photos: Xinhua, GovHK

What Trump’s victory means to Hong Kong

On Wednesday Hong Kong people and the rest of the world closely monitored the edge-of-the-seat race for the White House between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

When it became clear that America chose the billionaire businessman for its next president, many could not believe the result.

All along, in the run-up to election day, polls were predicting a Clinton victory while media bombarded the public with reports on Trump’s latest scandal and outrageous remarks.

So the question that lingered in the minds of most people was, why would Americans choose a “dangerous” and “highly unqualified” person to be their leader?

But as sure as the morning followed the dark night, disbelief turned into acceptance, no matter how begrudgingly, and fear transformed into hope that everything would turn out well.

However, there were also anti-Trump protests in cities across the United States.

Clinton led the effort at national unity by picking up the phone and congratulating her rival on his victory, an act which was followed by outgoing US President Barack Obama.

In his victory speech, Trump praised his rival and called for reconciliation and unity after one of the most bitter and divisive elections in US history. 

Wall Street reflected this upbeat mood by recovering from overnight losses and ending with huge gains on Wednesday. 

For Hong Kong people, the US election displayed once again the merits of democracy, of letting the people decide their destiny.

The election result may not be to their liking, it may have reflected the American people’s frustrations, and even anger at the establishment, but it also showed that the will of the people reigns supreme – at least as far as choosing their own leader is concerned.

In a way, Trump’s victory runs parallel to the rise of localism in Hong Kong.

Many ordinary Americans did not like their government’s adherence to globalization, which they blame for the loss of their jobs, the sluggish growth of their economy, and the ever-present threat of terrorism.

Many Hong Kong people could identify with those sentiments as they themselves have to contend with the impact of the floods of migrants, tourists and parallel traders from the mainland.

But they believe that the main problem is that Hong Kong remains under Beijing’s control and, unlike the US, is not a sovereign state.

Hong Kong people don’t enjoy the right to choose their own leader, which the Americans exercise every four years.

And as if that were not enough, Beijing had to interfere every so often in the local political system, despite its assurances that Hong Kong will continue to enjoy its autonomy.

In the latest case, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee issued an interpretation of the Basic Law as it pertains to the oath-taking controversy at the Legislative Council.

Beijing’s move, aimed at blocking independence-leaning legislators from assuming office, was highly irregular because Hong Kong did not ask for it to intervene.

And to further tighten its grip on Hong Hong, Beijing, in its interpretation of the law, even introduced new criteria in determining whether an official’s oath-taking is valid or not.

These criteria, such as sincerity, loyalty and respect, are highly subjective, and therefore would depend on the discretion of the person determining the validity of the oath-taking.

Beijing’s intention, of course, is to close the doors of the government to those who advocate self-determination or independence.

The Youngspiration duo whose oath-taking was invalidated were duly elected by their respective constituents.

But unlike in America, Hong Kong people cannot decide on who should be their representatives in government.

Beijing does not believe in liberal democracy. It insists that not eveyone has the right to vote or be elected into office.

On Wednesday morning, while the votes in the US presidential election were still being counted, the Chinese state-owned Xinhua News Agency published a story criticizing US democracy.

It said the US election is the embodiment of the crisis of democracy in America, which serves as a stark contrast to China’s stability under the Communist Party.

Xinhua said the US presidential election showed that “the majority of Americans were rebelling against the US political class and financial elites”.

In a similar vein, the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, said in a commentary that the presidential election revealed a “sick democracy”.

On Tuesday, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV ran man-on-the-street interviews with unnamed American voters who expressed their frustration with the American political system and dissatisfaction with both candidates.

From the perspective of Beijing’s top leaders, western-style democracy could threaten the Communist Party’s rule in China.

That is why Beijing refused to heed Hong Kong people’s call for genuine universal suffrage, the right to select their chief executive, and this led to massive protests two years ago.

In the Legislative Council election in September, pan-democrats, including localists, garnered 30 seats, which was higher than Beijing had expected.

But Beijing could not accept that those advocating for self-determination or separation from the central government would be part of Hong Kong’s political system. 

So in order to ease them out, they invoked the Basic Law and accused them of violating its provisions.

Beijing wants to make it appear that Hong Kong people are allowed to choose their leaders but only to the extent that it approves of their choices. Is that Beijing’s brand of democracy?

On the US presidential election, Our Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying issued a statement on Tuesday night congratulating Trump on his victory.

Leung said: “Hong Kong and the US enjoy close economic and trade ties … Being China’s international financial and trade center, Hong Kong has a unique role to play in the continued opening up and reform of the mainland China market.

“The free market policy and the sound legal system of Hong Kong provide a solid foundation for the US enterprises to explore new opportunities in the markets of the mainland and the Asia-Pacific.”

That’s strange. Why would CY Leung send a congratulatory letter to the US president-elect as if he were a national leader? 

In fact, he could not even boast of Hong Kong’s “sound legal system” because the city’s vaunted adherence to the rule of law is no longer safe in a situation where Beijing can interpret the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, whenever it feels like doing so and bypass the city’s judicial system.

In fact, while Beijing is criticizing America’s brand of liberal democracy, CY Leung is reaching out to the US president-elect and congratulating him.

So would Beijing now condemn CY Leung for acting independently as if he represents a sovereign state? Would he not be chastised for independence advocacy?– Contact us at [email protected]

SC/AC/CG

EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter