On the front page of the print edition of Straits Times today (ST), it reported that a close fight was to be expected at the Hong Kong polls held yesterday (‘Close fight expected as record number cast votes in Hong Kong polls‘, 25 Nov).
As the vote counts in Hong Kong were still proceeding right through midnight, ST was unable to report the final poll outcome. Instead, it chose to report that a close fight was to be expected on its front page news this morning.
In its news report, it quoted an administrator Jenny Suen, 59, saying, “These elections are like a battle of the generations, between the older folk and the youth.” And added that the pro-democracy folks’ views are “shallow and short-sighted”. “If there is a majority (win) from these people, I’m going to migrate to the mainland,” said Jenny, who was said to be a born-and-bred Hong Konger.
ST also went to quote Associate Professor Alfred Wu from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, who said he expected a tough fight between the pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps. Even though two million took to the streets in June to voice their opposition to the now-scrapped extradition Bill, it might not translate into votes against the government, Prof Wu said.
“The current sentiment is not very helpful for the pro-Beijing camp, but the crux is that the majority of the pro-democracy candidates don’t have a proven track record in serving people because of a lack of financial resources,” Prof Wu added.
According to the website of LKY School of Public Policy, Prof Wu was a senior journalist in Mainland China from 2000 to 2007, where he received “over a dozen awards and honours for outstanding journalism both from Chinese and overseas organizations”. He has also been engaged in funded research projects with support from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong and the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong government.
ST did mention, however, Associate Professor Sing Ming from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology as being “more optimistic” about the pan-democrats’ chances. But he also referred to local reports that in Kowloon West and the North District, buses were mobilised to ferry older people, who were likely to vote for the pro-government parties, to voting centres.
“I think the record voting rate testifies to the groundswell of support for some of the core demands raised by the protesters, including the very rapid implementation of universal suffrage, the set-up of a truly independent commission of inquiry and to hold the police accountable. This message is very clear.”
Pro-democracy parties win by landslide
As things turned out, Reuters reported this morning (25 Nov) that the pro-democracy parties had “romped to a landslide and symbolic majority” in district council polls (‘Hong Kong democrats romp to local election landslide after months of protests‘).
It reported that the democratic candidates had secured a landslide majority of the 452 district council seats for the first time against a “strongly resourced and mobilized pro-establishment opposition”.
The results began trickling in after midnight. Soon, news of upset wins for democrats against heavyweight pro-Beijing opponents started to filter in. Even voting centers erupted in loud cheers and chants of “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution Now” – a slogan used in many Hong Kong protests.
“This is the power of democracy. This is a democratic tsunami,” said Tommy Cheung, a former student protest leader who won a seat in the Yuen Long district close to China’s border.
By 8am this morning, pro-democracy candidates had secured a landslide majority with 333 of 452 seats, compared with 52 for the pro-establishment camp, according to media estimates. Four years ago, the pro-democracy camp could only muster 100 seats in the previous polls. Almost three million people voted with a record turnout of more than 71%, Reuters reported.
“I believe this result is because there are a lot of voters who hope to use this election and their vote to show their support for the (protest) movement, and their five demands, and their dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong government,” said former student leader Lester Shum, who has also won a seat.
“The district council is just one very important path of struggle. In future, we must find other paths of struggle to keep fighting,” Shum added.
Jimmy Sham, a leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized some of the anti-government rallies, won his electoral contest, as did Kelvin Lam, who stood in after prominent student activist Joshua Wong was barred from running.
A number of pro-Beijing heavyweights including Junius Ho, whose abrasive and arrogant public comments have made him a hate-figure among many protesters, lost to many pro-democracy candidates.
With student leaders like Cheung, Shum and Lam, who “don’t have a proven track record in serving people” and “lack of financial resources”, beating their pro-establishment opponents, Hong Kong political experts from LKY School of Public Policy like Prof Wu must be eating their words now.
No doubt, the landslide win by the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong would surely pose a big challenged to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
And certainly, nearer to home, Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party government would probably be pondering if something similar to Hong Kong’s polls yesterday can happen here, with Singapore’s opposition camp, who “don’t have a proven track record in serving people” and “lack of financial resources”, winning more seats against the likewise, “strongly resourced and mobilized” PAP.