November 26, 2019

Hong Kong Elections

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“Hong Kong’s leader said on Monday she would listen to public opinion after a landslide election victory by opponents of Chinese rule amid months of sometimes violent pro-democracy unrest… Democratic candidates secured almost 90% of 452 district council seats in Sunday’s poll.” Reuters

“Congress has approved two bills aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong following months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The House overwhelmingly approved the bills [last] Wednesday, a day after the Senate passed them on voice votes. The bills now go to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.” AP News

Both sides see the vote as a repudiation of China, and note that further challenges remain:

“For months, members of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing establishment have spoken of a ‘silent majority’ here. The argument, parroted by government-friendly pundits and talking heads, offered a convenient counter-narrative to months of demonstrations and violent clashes that have ripped through the city: A large portion of the population, the fable went, had grown tired of the protests but remained quiet for fear of being attacked for their unpopular views. On voting day, they would emerge, cast their ballots, and restore an order of normalcy. That story line, flimsy from the start, has now collapsed entirely.”
Timothy McLaughlin, The Atlantic

“Xi has a big problem. Given a chance to vote on the last few months of protests, Hong Kongers have made it abundantly clear where they stand. And it's with those taking to the streets, not with pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam. Certainly not with Beijing, which has long claimed the protests are rooted in Western manipulation and a select few troublemakers. That lie has now been exposed… Xi's vision centers on Chinese accepting a supreme Communist Party that delivers improved living standards and global power. Xi calls this his ‘Chinese Dream.’ But Hong Kongers have now proven that the dream is an authoritarian nightmare, and they want no part of it. Xi will view this as the start of a broader backlash against his rule.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

One of the organizers of the 2014 Umbrella Movement writes, “Hong Kong’s next leader may still not be directly elected by the people. But there is a better chance that that person won’t have as much license to chip away at Hong Kong’s semiautonomy. The pro-democracy camp’s astonishing victory in the district council elections will not — it cannot — fix the democratic deficit patent in Hong Kong’s other institutions. But it is a fresh opportunity to cultivate the city’s democratic spirit. Whether at the grass-roots, community-level work of the district councils or during next year’s LegCo elections or with their even limited sway on the committee that will select Hong Kong’s next leader, the city’s democrats can now lay a solid foundation for the future. When our time comes to fully and freely exercise real democracy, the Hong Kong people will be ready for it.”
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, New York Times

“A word of caution before too many champagne bottles are popped over the Hong Kong election results. The District Council offices are advisers to the Hong Kong government and do not have a major hand in putting together policy. The role appears similar to that of a County Clerk and Recorder in America. It will be next year during the Legislative Council election when Hongkongers could send an even bigger message to Beijing. The council has an actual role in determining policy… Pan-democrats should keep pushing forward with their agenda and the importance of freedom and liberty in the region. There is no reason to stop, now. Freedom is winning.”
Taylor Millard, Hot Air

Both sides also support the bills passed by Congress and urge President Trump to sign them into law:

“Even though Hong Kong is legally part of China, the city's unique status – including an independent judicial system and a free-market economy – has enabled it to enjoy special treatment from the U.S. The legislation passed by Congress requests the State Department to ‘certify annually to Congress as to whether Hong Kong warrants its unique treatment under various treaties, agreements, and U.S. law. The analysis shall evaluate whether Hong Kong is upholding the rule of law and protecting rights enumerated in various documents.’...

“For more than six months, Hong Kongers have been waving American flags and singing American anthems. They want something we Americans sometimes take for granted – the freedom to choose. Congress has sent a message to Hong Kong, to the rest of the world, and especially to the authoritarian regime in Beijing: the U.S. always stands at the forefront with those who fight for freedom.”
Helen Raleigh, Fox News

“We understand Mr. Trump’s pragmatic desire not to insult Mr. Xi amid the trade talks, but his rhetorical indulgence of dictators is often cringe-worthy. The best you can say about Mr. Xi is that he hasn’t sent in Chinese troops to crush dissent in Hong Kong. Mr. Xi isn’t a sentimental man and he’ll make a decision on trade talks in China’s cold-blooded national interest. If he thinks he needs the deal for the sake of China’s economy, he’ll agree to U.S. terms whether or not Mr. Trump signs the new Hong Kong bill. After Sunday’s demonstration of courage by Hong Kong voters, a veto by Mr. Trump would betray America’s values and be a show of weakness to China.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“With China, the competition is not only over the South China Sea or trade. It is also a competition of profound consequence between China’s illiberal, authoritarian system and the values of democracy and a rules-based international order for which the United States must be the leading exponent and guardian… a trade deal that’s worth anything must be sturdy enough to survive amid all the other pressures and crosscurrents in the relationship with China. No one should want trade terms that are won by sacrificing freedoms and rights in Hong Kong or anywhere else… No future protests about silencing dissent, muffling the Internet, mass incarceration or intrusive surveillance will have the same punch if Mr. Trump goes limp on Hong Kong.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Far from weakening the U.S. position in the trade talks, where China needs a deal more than the United States, [signing the bill] would demonstrate an indomitable American will that Beijing has not previously encountered and which it must now accept in all its dealings… If China were to respond by indeed unleashing its army against Hong Kong, Trump should make clear that would immediately trigger the punitive actions provided in the act and would trigger severe international repercussions against China across the board.”
Joseph Bosco, The Hill

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“The landslide victory for pro-democracy candidates in Sunday's district council elections is a stinging rebuke to the city's government -- and an example of what protesters can achieve given the opportunity. By avoiding unrest and trusting voters to support them, protesters scored a bigger victory than if they had disrupted the polls…

“It has been pointed out many times that had Lam responded to the initial mass protests against the extradition bill, she might have avoided the entire crisis. Equally, had an independent inquiry been announced months ago when the bill was finally withdrawn, it might have ended there. Now voters have shown not only the depths of the discontent, but also their power. And it may be the only thing that can truly satisfy them is overhauling the entire system.”
James Griffiths, CNN

“There is no reason why a Hong Kong with greater political freedoms cannot exist within the boundaries demarcated by Chinese national interests… Such democratization could take place in key areas where—importantly and surprisingly—little has been set in stone by Beijing. One such area is the composition of the chief executive nomination committee. How high the threshold of required nominators for entry into the race is, and the broadening of the electorate that determines who gets onto this committee, could be looked at…

“Hong Kong’s government must meanwhile set aside its approach of engaging only dominant interest groups and instead turn to setting up binding and transparent consultative platforms, where ordinary citizens not only could propose and prioritize items for governmental consideration, but also contribute towards participatory policy-making… None of these measures contravene Beijing’s red lines. They are feasible and not merely necessary but crucial.”
Brian Wong and John Mak, Time

From the Right

“Following the withdrawal of the extradition treaty that initially sparked the demonstrations, the pro-democracy camp has shifted its focus to broader issues of police brutality and the expansion of suffrage. Many will see the election results as a mandate to continue protesting until universal suffrage is granted to the people of Hong Kong… If Xi fails to address the concerns of Hong Kong protesters… existing discord within the party could increase, and he could find himself on even shakier ground. After all, the strategic importance of Hong Kong to Beijing has always been political first and foremost: If the Chinese state can’t show the strength to get its way in Hong Kong, dissidents on the mainland might be emboldened. And emboldened mainland dissidents would be an existential threat not just to Xi’s leadership but to the party itself.”
Daniel Tenreiro, National Review

“Xi now also has to worry about his fellow senior leaders in Beijing, who can convincingly argue that, by pushing too far with his extradition bill, he is to blame for the unfolding debacle in Hong Kong. Xi, during more than a half-decade of relentless purges, has given hundreds of Communist Party members a reason to get even. He has now also given them a means to do so.”
Gordon G. Chang, The National Interest

“Trump’s counting on reaching a trade deal with Beijing before the election to give the economy a lift and ease the strain in agricultural states, where he has fans who are struggling after losing access to China’s market. If he gets an agreement, he can tout it as the biggest best most beautiful agreement ever and put his main economic liability behind him. Now here come Cruz and Pelosi and about 520 other legislators to roll a political grenade onto the negotiating table, and there’s nothing Trump can do to defuse it. If China walks away from trade talks, Trump will be on the hook for any ensuing economic deterioration.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

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