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The ball is now in Hong Kong government's court

Bilsky Philipp Kommentarbild App
Philipp Bilsky
November 25, 2019

Hong Kongers sent a clear message to the city's government in the local elections held this weekend. But no one really believes Chief Executive Carrie Lam will grant any substantial concessions, says DW's Philipp Bilsky.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Image: AFP/N. Asfouri

Until the last minute, there were doubts as to whether the elections would take place at all. Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam had announced several times that the elections would be called off if violent protests continued.    

But the election day remained calm. Even Carrie Lam herself was able to cast her vote without attracting a large group of angry demonstrators to the polling station. 

The result of Sunday's district council elections could not have been clearer. The pro-democracy candidates scored a landslide victory, while the pro-government camp suffered a huge defeat. Never before had so many Hong Kong people come out to vote. This shows how important it was for the Hong Kong people to have their say. 

Philipp Bilsky is head of DW's Chinese service
Philipp Bilsky is head of DW's Chinese serviceImage: DW/P. Böll

Before the elections, there had been much speculation about how much support there still is for the ongoing anti-government protests, especially after violence on both sides escalated in recent weeks. There had been no major polls lately.

The result of the district elections clearly answered this question. The support for the protest movement is still very strong. And what is even clearer is that the vast majority of the Hong Kong people are enormously dissatisfied with Carrie Lam and her work.

A minor impact

What does the outcome of the elections mean for Hong Kong's future? The district councils are only responsible for local initiatives and have little political weight. And the district council elections will only have a minor impact on the election of a new chief executive in 2022, as pro-Beijing forces still have more control over the 1,200-member Election Committee, which is in charge of selecting the city's leader. 

Police spray mosque blue

After such a clear vote in the local elections, however, it would actually be urgently necessary for the government to take substantial steps to respond directly to the Hong Kong people's demands. However, nobody actually believes that this is going to happen and that Carrie Lam, for instance, is going to fulfill the most important demand of the demonstrators  an independent investigation into the excessive use of force by the police.

But if the government remains passive, those in the protest movement who believe that peaceful protests lead nowhere will be encouraged. It shouldn't therefore come as a surprise if Hong Kong protesters' willingness to engage in violence surges again in the coming days. In that case, we could see similar scenes of violence breaking out in Hong Kong once again. 

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