Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Divide and Conquer

China is patiently waiting for the 50-year deal with Britain that gave Hong Kong back to China to expire, freeing their hands. In the meantime, China has to cope with the will of people eager to retain what little democracy they still have left in Hong Kong:

Hong Kong voted on Sunday in its first major election since pro-democracy protests in 2014 and one of its most contentious ever, with a push for independence among disaffected younger voters stoking tension with China's government.

The vote is for a 70-seat legislative council in which Hong Kong's pro-democracy opposition is hoping to maintain a one-third veto bloc in the face of better mobilized and funded pro-Beijing rivals.

The article doesn't mention that the legislative body is split into two parts. One half is based on geography, the kind of district we in the West are used to. The other is based on functional constituencies.

In 2012, despite the thumb on the scales that China placed on the voting for the geography-based districts, the pro-democratic side won the majority of seats.

But the functional-based seats overwhelmingly went to the pro-Peking side.

So the pro-democrats have to win overwhelmingly just to stand a chance of blocking China's slow ratchet of suppressing freedoms in anticipation of the 1997 deal expiring, allowing China to fully implement "one country, one system" in Hong Kong, too.

UPDATE: The pro-democracy side did better than 2012, winning 19 of the 35 seats at stake:

The victory is all the more impressive given that Beijing arbitrarily banned dissidents from standing for election, kidnapped dissident writers and coerced them into making televised false confessions, and used brutal force to put down a popular protest movement, then hounded its organizers long after the uprising had been shattered.

Certainly the pro-democracy side is to be commended for standing up to Chinese pressure.

Yet remember that the oppression carried out against the pro-democracy side did manage to get the pro-China side 16 of those seats. And don't expect the functional seats to go against Peking.

So keep the "big win" for the pro-democracy side in perspective.