Asia Minute: Hong Kong Elections: Set-Back for Pro-Democracy Forces

Mar 13, 2018

Hong Kong's Central Government Center.
Credit Wing1990hk / Wikimedia Commons

2018 is an election year not just here in Hawaii, but also for a number of congressional races around the country. Overseas, this past weekend saw an important election in Hong Kong—with significant results. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong lost some political ground over the weekend. The focus: Hong Kong’s 70-member parliament known as the Legislative Council.

Only half the members are elected directly by voters; the other half is selected by business and trade groups. The latter section overwhelmingly favors the policies of the Beijing government – which has been increasingly cracking down on political opposition in Hong Kong.

Political commentators generally describe party affiliations as pro-democracy, or pan-democrat – as opposed to those who are pro-establishment.

Only four seats were in play on Sunday, and all had been held by pro-democracy representatives. They were disqualified after taking their oaths of office in 2016 in ways the Beijing government later ruled unconstitutional—because they indicated some form of protest.

Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, 2014.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Pro-democracy candidates only won only two of those four seats.

Voter turnout plunged from more than 60-percent in the 2016 general election to a little more than 40-percent in Sunday’s by-election.

What’s significant about the election is that it means the pro-democracy forces have now lost their ability to veto most bills in the chamber. And they’re down to holding 26 of the 70 seats in the Legislative Council.