Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hanging on to Freedom

Original Image Airin T/Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/2bUgiID

Hong Kong, Hongkong, Occupy, Demosisto, Umbrella Movement, Democracy, Pan-Democratic, LegCo, Beijing, CY Leung

Hongkongers are set to vote in LEGCO elections this coming Sunday. Facebook is rolling out reminders, police are preparing for a spirited turnout, and many argue that the deck is stacked. Post-Occupy tension, regardless of whether it spills over into the streets again, will make this vote a memorable one, as the Pan-Democratic veto hangs in the balance

Mike Rowse in the SCMP:
The first question is whether the initial results will be allowed to stand. Returning officers rejected nomination submissions from six candidates and several have launched legal action challenging the decision to exclude them... If the courts rule later that the purported powers to ban them did not in fact exist, or were unlawfully exercised, then there will be a round of by-elections at a time when the political temperature will be red hot... 
The second question... is whether or not the pan-democrats will have been successful in retaining their one-third blocking minority... there is a danger of further softening... pro-administration forces are making a determined bid to prise away some of the functional constituency seats traditionally held by pan-democrats... The big new joker in the pack is the emergence of a group professing strong localist sympathies... It seems likely they will draw thousands of votes, mostly, one suspects, from among traditional pan-democratic supporters. There is a real prospect of two or three localist candidates being elected, especially given the way our large population/multiple seat constituencies are structured. What is not known at this stage is how damaging this will be to the lists put up by the mainstream pan-democrats. 
Another new factor is the decision by a number of long-serving political leaders to step down at this election and pass the baton to the next generation... It was important for the parties to begin the renewal process, but it does introduce another element of uncertainty into what was already a fluid situation.

Eric Chung quotes Joseph Lian Yizheng in the Hong Kong Free Press, on what effect the outcome may have on next year's Chief Executive vote, which is to say, not much:
Speaking on a Commercial Radio show on Monday morning, Lian said Leung might stand a higher chance of reelection if pro-Beijing parties score well in this Legislative Council election, adding that it is not easy to defeat the political forces supporting Leung who have direct connections with Beijing. Nevertheless, he reckoned that it would not change much even if more conciliatory leaders, such as Jasper Tsang Yok-sing or John Tsang Chun-wah, are elected. 
“[Beijing] might pursue a more conciliatory approach after years of hard-line rule [towards Hong Kong],” he said. “But it could actually be more dangerous, because if John Tsang or Jasper Tsang push for Article 23 (the unpopular security law shelved in 2003), it might actually stand a higher chance of getting passed.”
It remains, as yet, unclear as to whether Leung will run for office again.

Localists nevertheless will play a role in this election, one unwittingly handed to them by Beijing. Oiwan Lam:
But the barring of pro-independence candidates from the Legco election has only stimulated people to talk about Hong Kong independence more often, culminating in the city’s first pro-independence rally on August 5. 
Henry Kwok, a teacher and a political affair critics explained the motivation behind the rise in independence rhetoric: 
The independence rhetoric is deliberately obtuse to send Beijing’s nerves into overdrive. I don’t know whether [pro-independence candidates] could gather much steam to beat the big parties and become a ruling political force in the coming election. However […] the rhetoric of localism has pushed the frontiers of political discussions. What the localists want is actually quite modest and completely innocuous: to uphold the ‘one country, two systems’ constitutional principle and [achieve] greater political autonomy from China for the city.

Meanwhile, structural issues ensure localists face an uphill battle in the polls, regardless of their appeal. Wei Du:
“If I am trying to cast a protest vote, why don't I just cast it for a more radical person? Because you are trying to protest anyway," said Mathew Wong, Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Hong Kong. He noted that the traditional parties in Hong Kong have very extensive grassroots organisations, so stealing their core voters is almost impossible.   
If Law loses, the Umbrella camp would have to wait another four years before the next election to grab any serious political influence. By then, Wong, the poster boy of the movement, will be old enough to run, but analysts said even his appeal may not stand the test of time. 
"His group largely relies on senior high school students. These students will naturally graduate from high school, go on to universities, in a few years' time they might have to come out and look for employment. Whether their commitment and support can be maintained for a stable period of time is doubtful to say the least," said Joseph Cheng, a political analyst who has worked extensively with the students.

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