This past week Hong Kong has had a much needed respite, and a small breakthrough in the protest, albiet perhaps a more symbolic than practical one. On Sunday 24 November, the District Elections were held in Hong Kong. These are held every 4 years, and the elected candidate roles are mainly advisory, limited to local functions without much absolute power on the macro level. Universal suffrage is available to all eligible citizens in the District Elections.
Over 1100 candidates contested for the 452 seats. It was a landslide victory for the pro democracy camp who won 388 seats, thats 86% of the total available. This is a sharp rise from the 125 seats, or 30% that they won in the 2015 election. The pro domacracy seats are donated in yellow. Voting in the district election and the outcome was seen as a massive suppport to the pro democracy protest and growing discontent with the Hong Kong government and the CCP.
Source : Stand News
Turnout to the 2019 election was record high. 2.94m voters, representing over 71% of the electorate turned out. This was the highest ever turnout to an election in Hong Kong.
Source : http://varsity.com.cuhk.edu.hk
SO WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
Given these encouraging results, you may ask what is all the fuss about? Why are people still protesting when everyone can vote, and the pro democracy camp win with such a high margin?
The TL:DR version is that under the Sino - Britain Joint Declaration signed by UK and China, Hong Kong was promised full democracy and that the basic policies governing Hong Kong should remain unchanged for 50 years. That means China does not meddle with Hong Kong's affairs, that's why Hong Kong is called a Special Administrative Region.
Universal suffrage is available for the District Elections and the Legislative Council. But that's it.
In 2014 the CCP set out new rules on how the Chief Executive of Hong Kong would be elected. The CCP would hand pick 2 or 3 desirable candidates to stand for the role. A group of 1200 people would form an Election Committee and cast their vote for the Chief Executive.
Most of the 1200 on the committe are hand picked by the CCP. The remaining represents various sectors and industries and are voted by members (via unions, member associations) from that sector. However, these representations are heavily skewed towards pro CCP industries.
For example professional sectors such as accountancy, education, IT, legal, architecture, engineering etc typically have a lot of pro democracy middle class. Each of these sectors have 30 seats on the committee.
- Accountancy have 26k members voting for 30 representative, that's 1 rep for every 867 member
- Education 80k voting for 30 seats, 1 rep for every 2688 member
- Legal 6.8k voting for 30 representatives, 1 rep for 225 member
Labour intensive industries are typically pro CCP
- Agriculture and Fisheries is a sunset industry in Hong Kong. This sector has 154 member voting for 60 seats on the Election committe. That is 1 rep for every 2.5 member
- The HK Chinese Enterprises Association and Employers' Federation of HK are pro CCP organisations, each have 18 representatives and 447 members combined. That's 1 rep for every 25 member.
Based on this, out of 7.4m Hong Kong population, 240k members across different industries and sectors select 1200 representatives to sit on an Election Committe, who in turn select 1 Chief Executive who is already hand picked by the CCP. The system, from the Election Committee to the Chief Executive are all effectively hand picked by the CCP.
How is this full democracy?
Why does students, even those intellectuals who are studying for a Phd not get to vote for the Chief Executive? Why does those currently unemployed, maybe taking a career break or change in career direction not get to vote? Why does, say freelancers or artists, who does not belong to any union or association not get to vote? Why does housewifes, or the retired not get to vote? Why does the other 3m of the electorate who can vote in the District Election and Legislative Council not get to vote for the Chief Exective who (supposedly) runs the city they live in?
This whole system that was announced in 2014 is what triggered the Umbrella Movement and bought the city to a vitual standstill for a few months. This is the system that gave Hong Kong Carrie Lam, the current Chief Executive who is most part to blame for Hong Kong's situation today.
Full democracy without China meddling is one of the the five demands of the current protest, and this protest will not stop until this is achieved. Would you accept lower pay from your employer than promised in your employment contract? If you don't, why should Hong Kong?
And for those who say, Hong Kong didn't have full democracy under British rule, why should they have it now? I would politely ask that person to crawl back into their cave and stay there.