Beijing needs fresh approach to Hong Kong changes

By Cong Peiying Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/13 20:23:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The result of the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) election was announced on September 5. Out of 70 seats, the pro-establishment camp won 41 while the anti-establishment forces, including the pan-democrats and localists, won 29.

It's widely believed among Western media that the result dealt a heavy blow to the central government. Not only did a record-breaking number of voters cast their votes, but also several pro-independence candidates were elected. Will this alter the balance of power within the LegCo? Does this mean the central government has lost ground in Hong Kong? How should the central government recalibrate its Hong Kong policy?

On the whole, the election didn't bring a major change to the balance of power in the LegCo, with the proportion of pro-establishment legislators to the opposition forces remaining six to four. However, as six localists were elected into the council, they have become a third force on the scene, which will have an impact on the political landscape of the LegCo. Besides, localist candidates garnered more than 400,000 votes, around 19 percent of the total 2.2 million, indicating a growing tendency of localism in Hong Kong.

As a matter of fact, localism is not unique to Hong Kong. It also exists in other countries and regions. The rise of this phenomenon is an embodiment of voters' anger. Those who are unhappy with the status quo use their votes to express their dissatisfaction. The reason why Donald Trump won the Republican primaries and why the Brexit referendum ended in a leave vote, to some degree, is because of the surge of localism.

In Hong Kong, it should be noted that localists are not necessarily separatists. Some localists come from the grass roots. They are concerned with the disadvantaged as well as social ills such as inequality and wealth gap. Their appeals reflect the basic pursuits of ordinary Hongkongers. In this sense, the LegCo election result isn't an indication of the central government's failure in Hong Kong, only signifying that the situation is complicated.

As distrust between Hong Kong society and the central government has been deepened by the Occupy Central movement, changes are taking place within Hong Kong society. The central government has to adjust its Hong Kong policy so as to avoid an unfavorable situation.

In future, the central government needs to learn more about the basic pursuits and realistic demands of the Hong Kong grass roots and accordingly issue policies that benefit them. It should continue to support the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government to improve its governance capability, since it directly affects Hongkongers' attitude towards Beijing.

Who will be the next chief executive is also an important element in determining the special administrative region's governance capability. The central government should take this decision prudently. Besides, the demands of the younger generation deserve close examination. That the 23-year-old Nathan Law Kwun Chung and 25-year-old Yau Wai-ching were elected into the LegCo indicates that young politicians have surged as a significant force. More attention should be paid to observe their ideological trends and engagement on social media. Social media has played an important role in facilitating the youth's political participation.

All in all, the policy recalibration should focus on how to win the hearts of the people. It will be a long process full of uncertainties. But one certain thing is that emerging problems cannot be tackled in traditional ways and change should be met by change.

The central government should keep adjusting its Hong Kong policy with the times and in accordance with the changing situation. It should lead Hongkongers to return to rationality and realize that only an all-round development of economy and livelihoods can be the cornerstone for the region's prosperity and stability.

The author is a scholar with the China Youth University of Political Studies.

Posted in: Viewpoint

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