Monday, September 5, 2016

On the day after the first Hong Kong Legislative Council election since the 2014 Occupy protests

On the streets of Occupy Causeway Bay back in October 2014

Seen at Occupy Admiralty that same month

The results are in for the first Legislative Council election since the socio-political protests that came to be known as the Umbrella Movement came into being in the wake of the police repeatedly fired tear gas into the crowds assembled at Admiralty on September 28th, 2014; and there are lots of heartening bits of news for pro-democracy supporters.

Among other things, new records were set for voter numbers (some 2.2 million people) and turnout (of 58%) for this territory-wide election; with a number of polling stations having to stay open hours past the official 10.30pm cut-off time because of unexpectedly long queues of voters turning out to take part in this democratic process.  In addition, the opposition camp (which includes those branded as "localists" along with more "traditional" pan-democrats) won 30 seats in total: three more in the legislature than in the previous Legco election in 2012; and six more than the number required to give them veto power to block the pro-Beijing faction's attempts to get bills passed in the Legislative Council.

The first "anti-establishment" candidate to have his win announced today was Chu Hoi-dick.  A long-time social activist who I met back in 2010 when he was leading the Tsoi Yuen village protests, the first time Legco candidate garnered the most votes of anyone in this year's Legislative Council election.  Among the other new faces in Legco will be Nathan Law.  A student leader who came to prominence during the Umbrella Movement (and took part in the televised talks between Umbrella Movement representatives and senior members of the government on October 21st, 2014 which people watched on the streets of Hong Kong as well as in private homes, cha chaan teng, bars and other venues), the 23 year old is the youngest ever individual elected to Hong Kong's unicameral legislature.

Before Sunday's elections, there had been fears that the pro-Beijing faction would gain from young localists taking part splitting the anti-Beijing votes with the established pan-democrats.  And I myself can't help but suspect that if fewer pro-democracy candidates had been fielded (and effectively pitted against one another as well as against the pro-Beijingers), there would have been a greater number of Legco seats won by opposition members -- all of whom I can see being thorns in the flesh of the man we derisively refer to as 689 as well as giving Beijing a headache.   

As it was, my joy at the election results -- which look to confirm for me that there are indeed a lot of Hong Kongers out there prepared to exercise what rights they currently have to help determine the territory's political path and overall future, and that a very good chunk of them do wish for (greater) democracy -- is tempered somewhat by the casting aside of a number of veteran pan-democrat lawmakers this time around.  

Among the old Legislative Councillors who lost their seats are Raymond Wong Yuk Man (ironically, a radical pioneer lawmaker), and the Labour Party's Cyd Ho (who's one of the rare Hong Kong politicians to stand up for LGBT rights) and Lee Cheuk Yan.  It's my sincere hope though that they'll continue fighting the good fight even after today; this not least because there's still a lot to battle for here in Hong Kong.   

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