Four years later, District Council Election unveils a new chapter of good governance in Hong Kong
Published: Dec 12, 2023 05:33 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

The 7th District Council (DC) Election in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) successfully concluded on Sunday which saw 1.19 million eligible voters casting their votes, reaching a turnout of 27.54 percent. While some Western media focus on reporting a "record low" turnout, hyping on the low public acceptance of the new electoral system, it's undeniable that the city, once entangled in the black-clad violence and malicious confrontation amid a highly politicized social atmosphere, is unveiling a new chapter of good governance. It's also a new beginning of the city's high-quality democracy.

Four years ago, the social atmosphere was highly intense ahead of the DC Election. After months of anti-extradition bill movement that later became violent rioting activities across the city, the DC had also become a platform for political figures from the opposition camp to instigate confrontation and even advocate "Hong Kong independence," posing a severe challenge to the constitutional order of the city. At the time, candidates from the opposition camp did not need to introduce their political platform or explain how to serve the community to win more votes, but they could win more votes by violently attacking their rivals and intimidating ordinary voters.  

For example, dozens pro-establishment district councilors' offices have been sabotaged and vandalized by anti-government rioters. A pro-establishment legislator was even stabbed when he was engaged in a street campaign for the election. On the voting day of the 2019 DC Election, some anti-government rioters incited voters to queue up again and again after casting their votes, making the queues for voting very long. Such a tactic forced elder voters to give up voting yet was described by some Western media as the public high level of participation in the election.

Four years later, with the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the electoral reform in accordance with the principle of "only patriots administering Hong Kong," those chaotic scenes from four years ago all disappeared. 

Rather than wooing votes with different political stances, candidates running for the seats this year visited places such as street markets and residential compounds every day, explaining what they could offer the community. For example, some candidates said they hope to upgrade the swimming pool and some said they will make more efforts to fight the rat problem in the district. Some said they will strive to add more zebra crossings in the district and extend the time of pedestrian crossing lights. 

Some unprecedented scenes also occurred during the election campaign. In Wan Chai - a highly competitive district, three candidates greeted and cheered each other, taking pictures together during the campaign before voting on Sunday. Such a respectful and friendly way was rarely seen four years ago as anti-government candidates frequently attacked their pro-establishment rivals in a malicious manner. 

Such dramatic changes also showed that the new DC following the electoral system reform is back on the correct track: focusing on community affairs and improving people's livelihood, understanding public opinion and assisting the HKSAR government in enhancing community services. 

However, some Western media appeared to turn a blind eye to those changes that made Hong Kong a more stable and peaceful place but only focused on the turnout of this election, which is much lower than the turnout of about 71 percent in 2019. But the turnout in 2019 was abnormal given the highly intense social atmosphere, making it the city's most dangerous and chaotic election. 

In fact, the essence of the election is not only to focus on the turnout but to see what the election can produce. Four years ago, the DC Election produced chaos and violence, forcing ordinary Hong Kong residents to live in fear every day. But today, it produced district councilors who can deliver their platforms to make a better community. It's more important to focus on the outcome of the election rather than just a few numbers. Today, local residents in Hong Kong are confident that the future DC will be a constructive place rather than what used to be, a destructive one. 

The new DC Election is completing the final step in implementing the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong," and it's also a new starting point for the DC to serve the public and win more hearts by rolling out concrete measures to tackle long-standing social issues. In the future, patriotic forces in Hong Kong will have the opportunity to expand their support through practical achievements - a real metric of public acceptance. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. chenqingqing@globalitmes.com.cn