Hong Kong Situation / Chinese-Style Governance Cannot Win Trust from Residents

The Chinafication of Hong Kong is accelerating. Democrats have been excluded from the city’s governance system. Some pro-democracy activists have fled abroad in search of freedom. The authoritative Chinese style of governing is unlikely to win trust from Hong Kong residents.

In the latest election for Hong Kong’s district councils, which have a total of 470 seats, pro-Beijing candidates dominated the contested seats in a landslide victory. The outcome was attributed to the electoral system, which has been revamped drastically in favor of the pro-Beijing camp, as seen in elections for the city’s chief executive and Legislative Council.

Under the new electoral system, the rate of directly elected district council seats, which tend to reflect the will of the city’s residents, has been reduced from more than 90% to less than 20% of the overall seats, and the remaining seats are allocated to certain people, such as those commissioned by the Hong Kong government. The electoral system also requires candidates to be “patriots” who support the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

Under this system, no pro-democracy candidates critical of Beijing were able to run in the district council election. If only those who pledge allegiance to the Chinese government are allowed to run, Hong Kong’s elections will not be worthy of the name.

In the previous district council election held in 2019, there were stunning anti-government protests. Voter turnout reached a record high of 71.2%, and pro-democracy candidates won more than 80% of the contested seats. This time, however, voter turnout fell to a record low of 27.5%.

In addition to people who support the pro-democracy camp, many others with no party affiliation are also believed to have abstained from voting. This may be a silent protest by voters against the Chinese style of governing, which thoroughly excludes dissent.

Only pro-Beijing candidates can currently run in elections to select the chief executive. With the pro-Beijing camp’s overwhelming win in the district council election, which followed a similar victory in the Legislative Council election in 2021, China has now completely eliminated pro-democracy figures from Hong Kong’s governance system.

The “one country, two systems” framework, which guaranteed a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong, has effectively lost all substance.

Agnes Chow, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist who is also well-known in Japan, revealed on social media that she has been studying in Canada since September. She said she has no plans to return to Hong Kong for the rest of her life, taking into consideration the situation in Hong Kong and her personal safety, among other matters.

After serving prison terms for charges such as inciting unauthorized demonstrations, Chow was released in 2021. After that, however, she remained under investigation for alleged violations of the national security law and was made to appear before the police on a regular basis. Chinese authorities allowed Chow to study abroad on the condition that she would visit mainland China, according to her social media post.

Chow has said she visited such mainland locations as a facility built to honor the achievements of the Chinese Communist Party, and was forced to write a statement in which she expressed her “gratitude to police for helping me understand the great development of my country.” Forced patriotic education is a violation of human rights.

It is hard to say that the international community has paid much attention to the current situation in Hong Kong, where people can be imprisoned if they raise their voices for freedom and democracy. Western countries and Japan must continue to voice their objections to China.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 17, 2023)