Communist Party officials in Beijing were “extremely dissatisfied” with the landslide defeat of their candidates in this week’s Hong Kong District Council elections and may be seeking to replace its local representatives in the region, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Tuesday.
Citing analysts and unnamed sources within the government speaking to Reuters, RFA claimed that the heads of the Communist Party in Hong Kong persuaded Chinese officials in the capital to believe that the millions-strong protests in the capitalist city that have raged since June were not representative of the vast majority of Hong Kong residents, who feared making their favorable opinions of communism known. Sunday’s election shattered that conception, as voters overwhelmingly chose pro-democracy, anti-Chinese candidates in the privacy of the ballot box.
Pro-China local lawmakers now only control one of 18 District Council – Islands council on the outskirts of the region, where most of the members of the lawmaking body were not on the ballot.
Now Beijing is seeking to remodel its presence in Hong Kong to prevent such a blowout from repeating in the future.
“Part of the official narrative has been the presumed existence of a ‘silent majority’ who support the government and police, love China, and are angry with the long-running disruption to their daily lives and the use of force by frontline protesters,” RFA explained. “Sunday’s election result gave the lie to that view, but analysts said it is entirely possible that officials in Beijing were told this by local representatives and believed it.”
China may now replace the heads of its Hong Kong liaison office and other key officials. There is no indication they would replace Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, though Lam has indicated in the past that she deserves to step down and would do so if asked. Lam later claimed the media misinterpreted her remarks, surreptitiously recorded at a private event.
“Beijing is extremely dissatisfied with Sunday’s election result,” Chinese University of Hong Kong expert Willy Lam told RFA. “They didn’t expect the pro-Beijing parties to lose so badly, so now they are looking for someone to blame.”
Lam noted that the Hong Kong liaison office has failed not only in bolstering pro-Chinese sentiment among regular people, but in uniting “the so-called pro-Beijing forces, including pro-Beijing parties like the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB).”
The protest movement also spread internationally to add to the embarrassment of the Communist Party:Kurt Zindulka
DAB was once the majority party in the District Councils. It now retains only 21 of over 400 seats.
Though some pro-democracy candidates accused the government of maliciously interfering in the voter process and the Hong Kong election board banned activist Joshua Wong, one of the most prominent members of the protest movement, from running, the Chinese regime appeared to interfere minimally in the election. The result was an overwhelming win in nearly every district for anti-communist candidates in an election boasting the highest turnout in Hong Kong history, over 70 percent of eligible voters.
Adding insult to injury, Hong Kongers took the streets of the city during their lunch breaks on Monday to celebrate the victory, openly pouring out champagne in public.
The Chinese communist regime blamed the United States, Australia, and other Western nations for allegedly meddling in elections, without offering any evidence to back its claims.
“The United States, making use of its domestic law, wantonly interfered in China’s internal affairs and attempted to undermine ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and the prosperity and stability of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, violating the United Nations Charter and the basic norms governing international relations,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in the aftermath of the elections.
China’s state propaganda outlets also alleged without evidence that pro-democracy protesters used “dirty tricks,” such as confusing older voters into supporting pro-democracy candidates and flooding voting lines with non-voters to extend wait times, to defeat communist candidates.
“The result of Sunday’s district council election marks a setback for Hong Kong’s democratic development, as the results were skewed by the illegal activities of the opposition camp to the benefit of their candidates,” China Daily claimed.
The pro-China Hong Kong establishment has diverged from that tactic. The Hong Kong election board affirmed that the elections occurred in a free and fair atmosphere. Carrie Lam acknowledged widespread disappointment in the city with the government, but rejected accusations that her government was responsible, as she does not administer the district councils.
District Council positions are the only ones that Hong Kong voters can choose directly by ballot. The more powerful Legislative Council seats are controlled partially by voters, but most are chosen by special interest groups with ties to Beijing.
“The nature of these elections is simply to elect district council members to serve on the 18 district councils. It is not for the government and myself to give it another interpretation,” Lam said on Tuesday. “I haven’t received any sign that I should be held responsible from the central government.”
“I said that we would seriously reflect on these views expressed to us and improve governance in the future of our work,” she added.
Lam categorically rejected personal blame in the elections. Her government has also rejected the protest movements’ remaining demands after withdrawing a controversial bill that would have allowed China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong.
The protest movement continues to demand four reforms of its government: freedom for political prisoners, direct election of Legislative Council lawmakers, an independent investigation into police brutality, and the removal of the word “riot” to describe the peaceful June 12 protest.