Sieren's China: Umbrella voters win small in Hong Kong


A small step in politics, but a big step
for the democracy movement. This is one way to describe
the elections that took place in the semiautonomous territory of
Hong Kong last weekend. Now, four young activists from 2014’s “Umbrella Revolution” are entering parliament. It was the highest turnout since 1991, when Hong Kong, still a British territory at the time, held its first direction legislative election. Still, turnout was only 58 percent last weekend – up five points from 2012.

Frank Sieren

Frank Sieren has lived in Beijing for 20 years

The pro-democracy movement is satisfied with the results. The most famous representative is 23-year-old Nathan Law, the head of the Demosisto party, which was founded recently by Umbrella activists. Two more seats were claimed by members of the Youngspiration party, another newcomer. One spot went to an alliance led by the right-wing Civic Passion, which was founded in 2012. So the pro-democracy movement lives on beyond 2014’s protests.

The few seats are not enough to achieve great changes. There are 70 legislators in total, and only 40 of them are directly elected by the public. Usually led by loyal members of the pro-Beijing economic elite, special interest groups pick the remaining 30. So, until the democracy movement acquires more than 30 the seats directly elected – a mathematical possibility, but hardly probable –
Beijing will pull the strings. Nonetheless, the pro-regime camp no long wields two-thirds control. The democrats have 27 seats and can now block laws and decisions. They already had the right to veto, so the election represents neither real progress nor a setback.

Beijing is not happy about the results, and this is clear from the mainland media coverage. Only one of 300 newspapers even reported on the election, according to the website Hong Kong Free Press. Authorities prevented any other news from being published. That’s a pity: Beijing should be proud of Hong Kong’s democracy experiment.