In Hong Kong, the pro-China parties have won the parliamentary elections as expected. Critics of the current government are talking about fake elections because virtually all pro-democracy candidates were banned from the electoral lists. Turnout was historically low at just 30 percent.
Yesterday’s parliamentary elections were the first after the significant protest movement for more democracy and less influence from the Chinese government in Hong Kong. In the second half of 2019, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest for months until the corona pandemic put an end to that.
Hong Kong is an urban region that was a British colony for a long time. In 1997, the region rejoined China under “one country, two systems”. Hong Kong was promised special rights and freedoms for another 50 years. But those freedoms are increasingly obscuring the Chinese government.
Beijing fears they will urge the Chinese in the rest of the country to demand more rights as well. And so, Beijing is strengthening its grip on the metropolitan region. Many Hong Kongers absolutely do not want to know about this. They do not consider themselves Chinese, and they say they have their own identity and a different culture.
Two years later, after the massive protest, the situation seems to be the opposite of what all those demonstrators had in mind. As expected, the pro-China parties won the elections convincingly. They take no fewer than 82 of the 90 seats on the Legislative Council. Moreover, the largest opposition party did not participate for the first time in 25 years. The historically low turnout was more striking than the result: only 30 percent of those entitled to vote came to vote.
Critics of the current pro-China government call yesterday’s polls a fake election. Because it was also the first parliamentary election after introducing a new electoral law, the law did not allow candidates from the pro-democracy movement. Instead, only “patriots” were allowed to participate—the candidates who cared about communist China. In addition, under the new law, only 20 out of 90 MPs are directly elected. The Chinese government designates the rest.
It was not only through that electoral law that Beijing gained more and more control over Hong Kong. Eighteen months ago, a new security law also came into effect in the special city region. As a result, any protest against the Chinese government has become a criminal offence. Demonstrating, shouting slogans, putting up flags, handing out flyers, it’s all dangerous now. Several protesters have already been arrested under that law, and some have already been convicted.
There is hardly any democratic opposition in Hong Kong, say the former protesters. “Former Democratic MPs are in prison; they have been convicted or are waiting for their sentence. And the rest have gone abroad,” René Hengeveld, a Hong Kong resident who grew up in the Netherlands, told our editorial team last weekend.