The turnout on 19 December was an extremely low 30.2 percent
This is far below the level that any government could hide or photoshop as a “success”. For Hong Kong’s rulers – the CCP – this is another catastrophic PR fiasco. It called a “patriots only” vote but there was a shortage of “patriots”. This result is the lowest ever since the handover, and only around half the turnout in the previous 2016 Legco election (58.3 percent). If we compare with the District Council elections of 2019 at the height of the mass struggle, 1.3 million voted yesterday, compared to 2,943,000 in that election in which the government suffered unprecedented losses. The CCP has “corrected” this problem, by ensuring no similar elections are possible.
CCP media has loudly proclaimed the elections a “victory”. Of course, all the winning candidates are pro-CCP clones. But the loudest voice was those who stayed away in protest. This was not “apathy” or “disinterest”, but an active and conscious mass action to treat this election farce with the contempt it warranted. This was all the more remarkable given that there were no rallies, leaflets, speeches, or other public calls for a boycott, due to the government – following North Korea’s example – making such appeals illegal. Without organization or leadership, nevertheless a powerful protest was put into effect.
This will not lead to a shift in Beijing’s position. The dictatorship will not for one second pause for reflection. It cannot back down in Hong Kong because this would undermine Xi Jinping’s show of strength in the new Cold War and against various internal challenges. For change to come, mass revolts in China will be needed.
This “victory” however creates new problems for the CCP’s rule in Hong Kong. Its 100 percent monopoly over the Legco means there will be nothing to hide behind when – as is inevitable – the government commits new howling errors, scandals and stupidities that further deepen mass anger. The low turnout reveals the gulf between rulers and ruled in Hong Kong is as big as ever. A year and a half of brutal crackdown have not succeeded in breaking the defiance of the masses.