Why did Hong Kong delay its elections?

International Oct 19, 2020

The Chinese Communist Party’s onslaught against the rights and the freedoms of the Hong Kong citizens continues. The legislative elections in Hong Kong that were scheduled on 6 September 2020 got postponed for a year and candidates were barred from running in these elections. As the country seethes in turmoil, this proves to be the first sign of an impending disaster. The government blames the pandemic for such a delay, but more likely because of the initial enthusiasm of the people to support the government has petered out.

THE HISTORY BEHIND THE PROTESTS

In the 1800s, Britain took over Hong Kong, when the island was just at its primary echelon of growth. Under British rule, Hong Kong flourished as one of the leading nations in terms of economic prosperity and technology. With most of its population comprising of immigrants from mainland China, Hong Kong acquired an outlandish identity in the society with its economy exploding. One of the treaties that China and Britain agreed upon was that Hong Kong was going to be a part of the British colony for 99 years, which meant that the agreement was to expire officially in 1997.

Amongst a few discussions, it was decided that Hong Kong will revert to mainland China, but the current social and economic systems in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and so will the lifestyle. The policy of the One-country- two systems was to be followed for at least 50 years, as the citizens accustomed to the Chinese rule. But the government is trying to dissolve such borders, demarcating their full-fledged control and system, as followed in mainland China. The increasing influence of China over Hong Kong is vexing the citizens as their right to remain an independent autonomy is being violated.

China has been trying to erase the borders between the mainland and Hong Kong, co-operating the nations as one. With the recent developments connecting Macau with the island, the citizens of Hong Kong have succumbed to rage as they fear that the nation will lose its own quixotic identity. With protracted protests and escalated tension, people are getting arrested for merely possessing banners saying ‘HONG KONG INDEPENDENCE’.

CANCELLATION OF THE ELECTIONS

But changing the schedule of an election, for whatever reason, tends to be a fraught endeavor that risks accusations of manipulations and puts the credibility of the system on the line. In the week running up to the postponement, the opposition was already reeling from a series of blows, including the arrests of four members of a pro-independence group, the disqualification of a dozen candidates from the elections, and the firing of a tenured law professor who is a key campaigner in the protest movement that flares up the question of the legitimacy of the actions of the government. People are raising questions about postponing the elections for a year and considering it to be a foul play, manipulating the people in some way. Citizens claimed that the pro-government politicians were more concerned about their “own election prospects” rather than the “severity of the pandemic”

HOW BAD IS THE PANDEMIC IN HONG KONG?

Hong Kong has had more than 100 daily new cases, for 10 days in a row. The overall numbers are still lower than those of many other places - but the spike comes after Hong Kong appeared to have contained the outbreak, with weeks of few or no local infections.

The territory has had more than 3,200 confirmed infections, and 27 deaths, from the virus. The Chinese government said it supported the decision, which was made "in the interests of the public". Some experts have suggested that measures could be put into place to make elections safer, such as reducing waiting times at polling stations - and that a delay of a whole year is not necessary. The people too revolted that elections have been taking place with the required precautions all over the world, so following such safety measures, elections could have taken place. With a new wave of Chinese influence, Hong Kong citizens feel a threat to their system and ethnicity and are protesting against such wanton decisions of the government.

This article has been written by Jahnavi Rathore for The Paradigm

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