HK elections: Carrie Lam holds firm as Chinese media blames ‘external forces’

27-Nov-2019 Intellasia | TheGuardian | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Chinese authorities and Hong Kong’s leader have suggested they have little intention of compromise with the city’s protest movement, despite a landslide victory for pro-democracy campaigners in local elections that served as a proxy referendum on six months of unrest.

The city has enjoyed a few days of relative calm, as protestors held off turning out over the weekend to ensure the election could go ahead without disruption, and then waited to see how officials in China and Hong Kong would respond.

That is unlikely to hold if there is no meaningful response to the vote. Pro-democracy candidates won nearly 90 percent of seats in district councils across the city, with 3m people 70 percent of registered voters casting a ballot.

Beijing appears to be scrambling to respond to the unprecedented democratic rebuke of the communist party. Officials have not directly addressed the outcome, instead repeating standard lines that Hong Kong is part of China.

Chinese state media largely avoided reporting the results, noting only that polls had closed.

However, late on Monday, an editorial from state news agency Xinhua effectively tried to delegitimise the huge democratic mandate Hong Kong has just given the protestors, by blaming “rioters,” supported by “external forces”, for tilting the election.

“The rioters and anti-China Hong Kong politicians reap political benefits through the unfair election process by creating ‘black terror’ and chilling effect,” it said.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, who had for months claimed the support of a “silent majority” for her hardline stance on the protests, accepted that the vote was a sweeping condemnation of her administration.

In her first press conference since the vote ended she said normally sleepy district council elections had a rare “political dimension” this year.

“We were aware of the large number of voters coming out to cast their vote… to express a view on many issues in society including, I would readily accept that, deficiencies in governance, including unhappiness with the time taken to deal with the current unstable environment and of course to end violence,” she said.

But she did not address the “five demands” which the protest movement has been making for months, including more democracy and an independent inquiry into police violence during protests that have seen two deaths and hundreds injured.

Instead she repeating nebulous promises of social consultations, which protestors have previously rejected, and returned to her September decision to drop the extradition bill which originally sparked protests, even though that was rejected as “too little, too late”, even at the time.

Lam also doubled down on the pro-Beijing campaign line clearly rejected at the polls that Hong Kong residents main desire was an end to the violence.

“Hong Kong people have realised very clearly that Hong Kong can no longer tolerate this chaotic situation. Everybody wants to go back to their normal life,” she said.

“As I have said repeatedly, resorting to violence will not give us that way forward. So please help us to maintain that relative calm and peace that we have seen in the last week or so and provide a good basis for Hong Kong to move forward.”

Chinese authorities are so concerned by the city’s spiralling unrest that President Xi is getting daily written briefings on the situation, Reuters has reported.

The government mouthpiece People’s Daily also claimed that the election which proceeded almost without incident on voting day was skewed by violence. “Social unrest, which has lasted for months, has seriously disrupted the electoral process.”

China Central Television’s (CCTV) anchorwoman, Liu Xin, wrote in a commentary on the state broadcasters website that the election had not been a fair game, and that pro-establishment candidates and their supporters faced widespread harassment and intimidation.

China has set up a crisis command centre in a villa just across the border with the mainland, and is considering replacing its official liaison for Hong Kong, the report said. The operation run out of “Bauhinia villa” bypasses the formal structures for managing ties between the semi-autonomous city and Beijing.

China has also summoned US ambassador to protest against the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act just passed by the US Congress, accusing Washington of meddling in China’s domestic affairs.

China’s vice-foreign minister, Zheng Zeguang, told the ambassador that passing the bill amounted to encouraging violence, and the US should “correct its errors and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and interfering in China’s internal matters”.

Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law, even though he has in the past expressed ambivalent views about the Hong Kong protests, and is currently in the middle of difficult trade negotiations with Beijing.

In a reminder of the protesters’ commitment and the volatile situation, on Monday evening a crowd had gathered outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where a handful of protesters remained under siege by police.

A group of newly elected pro-democracy councillors went to meet them inside, making their first public act after the election a clear statement of political intent.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/26/hong-kong-elections-carrie-lam-holds-firm-as-chinese-media-blames-external-forces

 


Category: Hong Kong

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